Rowing has a problem: 90 per cent of young rowers drop out of the sport when they leave school.
Now Wanganui may be on course to address that alarming statistic with the creation of a new role - a regional development officer.
Former Regional Performance Centre rower Rachel O'Connor has been appointed to the position and one of her key objectives is to keep youngsters in the sport.
"Athlete development and recruitment of athletes will be an important part of the job," said the 24-year-old former Wanganui Girls College rower who won a national championship gold medal for the Central RPC in the under-21 eights five years ago.
"The drop-off rate after school is a concern and I will be looking to create a pathway to keep them in the sport."
She will be strengthening links between schools and the rowing clubs, as well as helping educate coaches and get them qualified and make sure the clubs are running properly.
O'Connor, who will add the rowing development role to her existing work at Sport Wanganui, which includes looking after river sports and events, said the new position was a great step for the sport in the region.
"It will allow Sport Wanganui and the Wanganui Rowing Association to follow on from the work we have already been doing in the last few months."
That work includes a development plan for rowing.
Said Sport Wanganui general manager Greg Fromont: "Once we established the development plan, it was clear we needed someone to push it through, so we set about creating this role in conjunction with the association."
Association president Bob Evans commented: "Having this position in place will enable us to develop a professional and proactive approach to rowing within the association's boundaries."
Rowing NZ manager Kevin Strickland said he was excited by the scope of the role. "The Whanganui River has played a major part in the history of the sport here in New Zealand, with many Wanganui rowers wearing the black singlet.
"Rowing New Zealand want this legacy of what the Wanganui clubs provide to continue, and Rachel's role is an important way for this to happen."