New face at the helm of Poplar and Willow Research Trust

Posted on February 18, 2021

Iain on the Tūtaekurī River bed in Hawke's Bay. As well as being used for erosion control, shade and shelter, willows are an integral part of river management and flood control.

Iain Maxwell from the Hawke's Bay Regional Council is the new chairman of the New Zealand Poplar and Willow Research Trust.

“I’m excited to be asked to chair the Trust and am impressed with its impact on supporting New Zealand’s sustainable land management challenges.”

After gaining degrees in zoology and ecology, Iain was a Department of Conservation fishery officer for six years and regional manager for Fish and Game for 12 years. He had a year-long stint as a senior freshwater ecologist for the Cawthron Institute before moving to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council in 2011 as Group Manager Resource Management. In mid-2018 he became Group Manager – Integrated Catchment Management. The ICM Group of HBRC includes the council’s flagship Erosion Control Scheme that seeks to partner with landowners to reduce sediment coming from vulnerable parts of the region. Poplar and willow poles are critical tools in supporting this work, he says.

While working for HBRC, Iain has worked at a national and regional level supporting the development of policy development and implementation. After convening the Resource Managers Group, he now convenes the Science Advisory Group for regional councils, which includes governance of the Envirolink programme.

The Poplar and Willow Research Trust was formed in 2011 to fund poplar and willow research, and to improve the quality, suitability and use of these resources and to support the end users through breeding, testing and releasing new poplar and willow clones with pest and disease tolerance suitable for a wide range of climates, and through the provision of extension services. Breeding and improvement programmes are employed internationally to maintain genetic variation to create options for the future.

New Zealand still has about 700,000ha of pastoral hill country in need of space-planted willows or poplars for erosion control, Iain says. “Their deep and extensive root systems provide the best means of minimising soil erosion and in turn, help to keep rivers healthy. Most rivers require willows for bank stabilisation to manage flooding, and waterways need shade. Poplars and willows provide shade and shelter for stock and can also be used for fodder in summer; willows also provide food for bees in spring.”

When planted appropriately, space planted poplars and willows can also qualify for the ETS.

Regional councils have printed catalogues of poplar and willow varieties and detailed information and pictures can be found on the Poplar and Willow Research Trust website This also has how-to videos for choosing your varieties, selecting the best sites for them and the best ways to plant and manage them.

Farmers can also approach their own Regional Council land management advisors directly for specific advice in terms of localised climate, soil types and grants or allowances, which can differ in dollar size and threshold.

For more information please contact Trust general manager Ian McIvor on 021 226 8673 or