Day two began early aboard a steamboat. Peter Hardy (in character as the early twentieth-century Wanganui businessman Mr Hatrick) took everyone up the river on a brisk morning. The group welcomed Hon. Tariana Turia to their midst, with the boat ride allowing participants an excellent opportunity to talk to the former Māori Party MP. Hardy gave the group a detailed history of the area and the river, which tied in nicely to Dame Anne Salmond’s address from the previous evening.

Wanganui boat

Mr Hatrick revealing the history of the Whanganui River, with Hon. Tariana Turia pictured right.

Upon disembarking, the participants launched into song for Turia before boarding the bus for Jerusalem (Hiruharama). The road was long, narrow and windy – but well worth it. They arrived and hurried from the rain for a powhiri with the residents and attendants of the A Place to Live conference. After refreshment, there was time to explore the area, with many taking the opportunity to visit the famous church and, venturing a little further, the grave of James K. Baxter – the man who made Jerusalem known to New Zealand.

Te Wainui a Rua, the school at Ranana, was the next stop. This visit was something special. The group received an overwhelmingly warm greeting from the teachers, parents and children, with the students subsequently performing a waiata. The LocalNZ participants responded in turn with their own song. Set in a sparsely populated area along the river, the school is modern and spacious. It was lovely to see the pride that the locals have for their school, and the participants enjoyed their time with them.

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Participants and students mingling

For lunch the group visited the beautiful Koriniti Marae, along with the A Place to Live conference attendees. They heard once more from Dame Anne Salmond and then from various experts furthering the discussion around the fate of the Whanganui River. Their time here also saw a workshop session, where Wendy sat down with participants and set the foundations for working on their upcoming presentation at Parliament.

Their time in Wanganui was drawing to a close, but first the group had the pleasure of witnessing the A Place to Live conference debate at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre. The moot: ‘small is beautiful’. The debate was hosted by Wanganui Mayor Annette Main and introduced by Nick Astwick from Kiwibank. The panel was made up of the mayors of Hastings, Gisborne and Clutha, Lawrence Yule, Meng Foon and Bryan Cadogan; the ex-mayors of Otorohanga and Carterton, Dale Williams and Ron Mark (now a New Zealand First MP); and the always entertaining Ginette McDonald (as Lynn of Tawa). These figures all had enthusiastic (and differing) arguments and ideas for the preservation and growth of smaller towns. Enlivening the debate was MC Kim Hill, who guided the discussion, directing frequent wry quips at debaters and audience members alike. The participants used the Q & A section to their advantage, putting forward several questions to help them answer the overarching research question for the workshop: Are the goals of NZ Inc the same as Regional NZ Inc  – and if dissimilar, what would these differences look like?

The buses back to Wellington were filled with talk, and the designers sat down with participants to start mapping out how they might present their ideas effectively on Wednesday. Once they arrived, the only idea was sleep.