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Explore Pahiatua: Giving a community a new brand – and a new sense of pride

Previously known as ‘that place with the yellow plane’, Pahiatua was struggling to feel pride in its community.

“We often felt like the poor cousin of Palmerston North, tucked away in a district where we’re a bit disconnected from the rest of the region,” shares Louise Powick, who’s on the Pahiatua On Track community committee. With the region often being missed off guide books, few tourists visiting, and a lack of pride among locals, it was time to do something.

With a Main St upgrade on the cards, Pahiatua On Track realised that it would be a good time to create a brand for the town – a brand for the community to identify with and use to market themselves.

“Without an identity, our townsfolk really lacked pride. Lots of people felt like the town had nothing to offer. There wasn’t a lot of hope or motivation for creativity; not a lot of self-belief,” explains Louise. “It’s taken more people from outside moving in and saying that it’s a great place for people to start seeing that it is!”

“The purpose of doing a rebrand was as much for our own community as it was for tourists. We wanted to increase pride in our town, give us a sense of identity, and get visitors to stop and visit our town.”

With no unifying brand, Louise and Pahiatua On Truck had struggled to create cohesion among different members and groups of the local community. “We had a lot of people going in different directions. They were doing good work but on their own and for very little impact. A new brand would provide an avenue for community groups and businesses to come together and put out the same message.”

Exploring what makes Pahiatua great

“We tried to start the branding project on our own as a community committee with the help of the local council but soon realised that we’re volunteer based – we didn’t have the skills or time to put into this,” says Louise.

“We needed to pay somebody who could offer us their expertise to make sure we ended up with something very professional.”

They worked with marketing consultant Trudy Hobson to develop a marketing strategy and together came up with the brand name ‘Explore Pahiatua’.

Having worked with Tonia on other projects, Trudy brought Tonia into the fold to take the brand from a theory to reality.

“We’re not a city – we didn’t want the trendiest graphic design; it wouldn’t suit our local community. But we wanted it to be smart and have impact.”

Tonia had to create visuals that would encompass the four aspects of Explore Pahiatua:

  1. Recreation
  2. Retail
  3. Community
  4. Journey (or history)

“Being a rural community, the word explore is very apt, very suited to who we are. There’s the natural interpretation – lots of hunting and fishing, walks and bike trails – as well as exploring shops and learning about our history. It’s a really active word – it encourages people to do something, to be involved. We were looking for something that depicted that word visually.”

Coming up with 3-4 initial designs, the team settled on a motif that reflected the word explore and represented the community equally – footprints.
“When you explore something, you’re walking somewhere. We’re rural, so the footprints resemble boots or gumboots. We wanted to tell our story, our journey, our history – and this does that.”
Following the creation of the brand, Tonia created a website using Rocketspark that would appeal to visitors and people wanting to find out about the town. With a rural drift out of some big cities, Louise and the rest of the committee wanted to try and attract people looking for cheaper places to live and to buy. The website needed to incorporate links to local real estate agents, information about available schools, business opportunities, and more. The result is an engaging, colourful website that brings to life what makes Pahiatua so special.

Rolling out the new brand

With the Main St upgrade currently underway, the new brand will soon be front and centre for all to see – but it’s already being implemented through the community and beyond.

“Our annual Christmas event ‘Explore Christmas’ has already become well-established, while the new local bush multisports centre signage will soon be sporting the new brand. In the local Bush Telegraph newspaper, which is Tararua district wide, we have an Explore Pahiatua header in there and often run advertising features,” shares Louise. “It’s all about getting the branding out there more. The biggest challenge is looking for ways to resource that better.”

Although the brand is still to be fully rolled out, Louise is confident that it’s well-liked among the community, saying that in this case no feedback is good feedback – she would have heard if people didn’t like it!

“Working with Tonia was a very easy process. She’s very clever with her graphic design, very efficient, great with replying to emails and very quick at getting the job done. She’s a good communicator. Mostly we stayed in touch over email and sometimes phone calls. If she can’t do something immediately, she’ll let you know you’re in the queue so you know what to expect. I can’t wait to see all the signage and branding come together over the next couple of years.”


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