New face on the Poplar and Willow Research Trust

Posted on December 14, 2021

Chris Bristol

Rural marketing and brand specialist Chris Bristol has been appointed to the NZ Poplar and Willow Research Trust.

Coming from a family farm near Whanganui, Chris is an experienced senior manager within New Zealand’s agribusiness and farming sectors.

Trust chairman Iain Maxwell says Chris understands rural New Zealand and its farming systems, as well as the world of agribusiness that supports it.

“She brings a powerful history of strategic thinking and commercial branding knowledge to the table, plus an established network of industry contacts and business connections that will help promote the work of the Trust.”

After doing a Master of Professional Studies in Agribusiness Management at Lincoln University in 2010, Chris says she started helping businesses, at a strategic level, bridge the gap between research and technology transfer in the delivery of information to farmers and consumers.

“Farmers and land users need more research, information and tree species to help manage their land and the New Zealand Poplar and Willow Trust provides a cornerstone to supporting and helping them do this,” she says.

Chris’s marketing background includes corporate roles for Meridian Energy, Ruralco and Alliance Group. After returning to Whanganui in 2020, she joined the Whanganui Federated Farmers executive and is an advisory board member on her family’s sheep and beef farming operation. Her consultancy business, North & Grange, is helping Whanganui & Partners (economic development agency) develop a common pathway for start-up businesses for the Whanganui region, as well as completing marketing and project management work for organisations such as AsureQuality, and blackcurrant health supplement company, The cGP Lab. She also works one on one with agribusiness graduates to support their career planning.

Chris has replaced Manawatū’s Steph Sloan, who has been on the Trust for six years, as well as working on PWRT projects with Plant & Food Research and hosting a poplar trial on her family farm in Wairarapa. General Manager Ian McIvor says Steph’s soil science and nutrient management background had been appreciated, and thanked for her time and commitment.

Along with Iain Maxwell, the other trustees are former Greater Wellington land manager Stan Braaksma, Waikato farmer Tom Mandeno, and Peter Kemp, former head of the Institute of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University; Grant Cooper from Horizons Regional Council and Daniel Harrison from Taranaki Regional Council are the national regional councils land managers and river managers representatives, respectively.

The Trust was formed in 2011 to fund poplar and willow research; its role is 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 has about half a million hectares of pastoral hill country needing space-planted willows or poplars for erosion control. Poplars and willows are versatile trees that can deliver significant cost savings and provide excellent support in achieving environmental outcomes for farmers, including soil conversation and improving water quality, fodder, shade and shelter, and future timber and carbon credit opportunities.

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