Whanganui becomes NZ’s only UNESCO City of Design

5:49 pm on 9 November 2021

Whanganui has been named as New Zealand's only UNESCO City of Design, recognising the city's historic and contemporary contributions to art and creativity.

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Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua in Whanganui Photo: Supplied / Whanganui & Partners

The designation earns Whanganui a place in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network of 246 cities which put creativity at the heart of their development plans.

Emma Bugden, Whanganui & Partners Strategic Lead – Creative Industries, led the application

Dr Emma Bugden Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

Economic development agency Whanganui & Partners began the process to be recognised as a City of Design in August last year. The application was led by Dr Emma Bugden, strategic lead - creative industries, who worked with more than 100 stakeholders, partners and professional bodies throughout the process.

Bugden said Whanganui's status should be a source of pride for the whole community.

"The designation will be at the forefront of Whanganui's profile in the city's promotion and in our sense of identity. It is our intention that our city's narrative, the way we speak and think about ourselves, will include our status as a UNESCO City of Design as a matter of custom."

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network was created in 2004 to promote co-operation among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development.

As a City of Design, Whanganui would learn from and partner with a global network of leaders, Bugden said.

"Being part of the network will strengthen Whanganui connections with indigenous creatives around the world, particularly focusing on how indigenous voices are reflected in place-making and the visual identity of cities."

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St Paul's Church at Pūtiki in Whanganui Photo: LDR / Supplied / Whanganui & Partners

She said the designation would help create international partnerships for major institutions and education facilities, enabling them to exchange and share knowledge, which would be particularly beneficial for emerging designers and makers.

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall said the network's aims align with Whanganui District Council's Leading Edge philosophy by encouraging partnerships, connectivity, innovative approaches and safeguarding cultural heritage and natural resources.

"Our creative environment has always nurtured makers in our community, from our significant artistic legacy to our position as a creative hub. Joining other UNESCO Creative Cities will give us a connection to like-minded places and enable Whanganui to contribute our singular vision to this creative community."

Article cafe in Whanganui

Article cafe in Whanganui Photo: LDR / Supplied / Whanganui & Partners

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