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Rural Support Trust announces inaugural General Manager Maria Shanks
Katrina Thomas

Rural Support Trust announces inaugural General Manager Maria Shanks

As farmers and growers continue to face increased pressure as a result of adverse events and economic hardship, the New Zealand Rural Support Trust is responding to the increase in demand for its services with the announcement of new general manager Maria Shanks.

The Rural Support Trust is a collective of 14 regional trusts which offer a free, confidential service to rural farming communities to help during times of crisis. It is also known for its commitment to improving the health and wellbeing of the rural community, and in 2022 partnered with TV presenter turned sheep and beef farmer Matt Chisholm to start a conversation about rural mental health through their ‘Time Out Tour’ national roadshow.

Maria took up the General Manager role on the 1st May, which is a newly created position aimed at streamlining the Trust’s efforts and ensuring on-the-ground support remains widely accessible to those who need it.

She joins the Trust from her previous role as an extension manager for Beef + Lamb NZ which involved working collaboratively with the Waikato branch of the Rural Support Trust. Prior to that she worked in agri-banking.

National chair Neil Bateup says the Trust is pleased to welcome Maria into the role.

“We’re very excited to have Maria join us. Alongside her previous rural industry experience it was clear to us that she is passionate about helping rural communities and encouraging those important conversations around mental health and resilience.

“The past few years has seen unprecedented demand for the help and support the Trust provides, from the recent flooding in the North and droughts in the South, COVID and mycoplasma bovis (M.Bovis), they’ve all taken a huge toll. As a national organisation we are very aware of the pressures farmers and growers are facing right now and will continue to face in the future.”

Neil says as General Manager, Maria will focus on strategy and leadership at a national level, and maintaining the Trust’s crucial relationships with key funders, sponsors, and stakeholders.

“By having centralised oversight of our national priorities, it will free up capacity on the ground and allow the regional trusts to identify opportunities to further support rural people where it’s needed and ensure no one is left behind.”

Maria says she’s looking forward to getting around the country and meeting those involved in the regional trusts to gain an understanding of the valuable work they do - not only during times of crisis, but in building resilience for the future.

“In my previous role I was lucky enough to see the work the Rural Support Trust does on the ground, and the outstanding resource they provide to rural communities.

“Rural life, both farming and growing, will always have its challenges, and our goal is to walk alongside rural people during those tough times and help them come out of it stronger.

“I’m looking forward to supporting the Trust’s work so our rural people, who play such a big role in the livelihood of New Zealand, feel empowered and appreciated for the work they do.”

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