Whanganui needs to define what kind of growth is good growth on the back of the latest record population estimate, the district's economic development agency says.
Statistics NZ has put Whanganui's 2019 population at 47,300, a new record that surpasses the previous peak of 46,000 residents in 1997.
Jonathan Sykes, Whanganui & Partners' strategic lead for brand, events & i-Site, said despite the accelerated growth of the past few years, the district's gains were modest in a national context, putting it in a strong position to manage future growth.
"Our population looks like it did in the mid-90s. New Zealand, meanwhile, has grown about 30 per cent over that same time. If we had been on par with the national trend for the past 25 years, Whanganui would have a population close to 60,000 by now.
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"We've been playing catch-up but now we've got good momentum. We know that people are choosing to come to Whanganui to live, work and do business. At the same time, our vibrancy and charm has not been watered down.
"Now is the time to take a moment and define what kind of growth is good growth. For instance, what type of industry do we want to attract? What type of skills and experience do we want moving here? We need to ensure it fits with the essence of Whanganui."
It was important to have a strong understanding of Whanganui's identity and values before pursuing major growth initiatives, Sykes said.
"We're in the ideal position to manage our future so the benefits of growth are available to everyone and also to ensure that we maintain the points of difference around our unique identity."