Dr Edward Walker

PhD Molecular Medicine (Auck), MSc (Hons) Biology, BSc Biology

Dr Edward Walker is a scientist in the Consumer and Product Insights group at Plant & Food Research, New Zealand’s largest Crown Research Institute. His research focuses on identifying bioactive compounds from plants for use in plant-based health products, and as targets for directed breeding of whole foods with enhanced health properties.

He is the co-discoverer of a New Zealand plant-based extract that is clinically tested and used to support dietary change and healthy eating. Edward believes in the potential of plant compounds and plant-based diets for improving health and wellbeing.

He will talk about the potential use of bioactive plant compounds, the opportunities and challenges that present as plant-based diets become mainstream and how we might keep plant-based healthy in a consumer driven world of ultra-processed meat substitutes.

Professor Jim Mann


Jim Mann has been Professor in Medicine and Human Nutrition at the University of Otago and Consultant Physician (Endocrinology) in Dunedin Hospital for the past 31 years. Previously he lectured at the University of Oxford and was a Physician in the Radcliffe Infirmary.

He is Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Human Nutrition, the ‘Healthier Lives’ National Science Challenge and the New Zealand-China Non Communicable Diseases Research Collaboration Centre and; co-Director of the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre (EDOR). He is principal investigator for the Riddet Institute, a national Centre of Research Excellence at Massey University.

His clinical work has mainly been in the field of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. His research has principally related to epidemiological and nutritional aspects with a special interest in diabetes prevention. He has been author and co-author of over 300 publications and has written and edited textbooks and popular books.

He has been involved with national and international, government and non-governmental organisations (including the WHO, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and the World Cancer Research Fund) in guideline development relating to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and nutrition. He has chaired a range of professional organisations and advisory groups to the Ministry of Health and NGOs in New Zealand.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and has been awarded the Hercus Medal of the Royal Society and the University of Otago Distinguished Research Medal.  He was appointed a Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Medicine and medical research

Professor James Renwick

PhD (Atmospheric Sciences), MSc (Statistics), BSc Hons (Mathematics)

James has four decades’ experience in weather and climate research. His main field is large-scale climate variability especially over the Southern Hemisphere, and the impacts of climate variability and change on the Pacific, New Zealand and the Antarctic. James was a lead author for the last two Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and is a Coordinating Lead Author for the 6th IPCC Assessment to be published in 2021. He was awarded the Prime Minister’s 2018 prize for Science Communication, and has recently been appointed to the New Zealand Climate Change Commission.

Dr Greg Jacobson PhD

BSc, MSc, PhD, Senior Research Fellow

Greg is a researcher from Waikato University whose current projects include aspects of heart disease and the gut microbiome – i.e. the diverse population of >100 trillion species of microorganisms which outnumber our own cells by about ten to one.

Bacteria in the body can cause chronic and acute inflammation which, in turn, may promote atherosclerosis. Accordingly, an improved understanding of the populations of bacteria in the body and knowledge about whether certain bacteria associate with higher levels of inflammatory markers is extremely important.

The presentation will introduce broad concepts of the gut microbiome in health and include a summary of a recent research project from the Waikato studying the microbiome, inflammation and diet in heart attack patients.

Céleste Keesing RD

BSc (Human Nutrition), Master of Dietetics (Dist), Registered Dietitian.

Céleste is interesting in connecting and understanding all levels of our food system; from plant to plate, and is now following a mostly plant-based diet.

Céleste works in the Waikato region, providing dietetic care to the general public, in aged care facilities and rural community groups with Dietitians at Anglesea, and for Tū Tonu.

Her areas of special interest include nutritional prevention, treatment and, where possible, reversal of mental health and neurological conditions. She has published research on the cognitive effects of different glycaemic sugars.

In her spare time, Céleste enjoys surfing and has run surf camps for troubled youth.

Dr Lillian Kent PhD

Dr Lillian Kent first graduated with degrees in Microbiology and Biochemistry, but later changed her focus and completed a PhD in Public Health Nutrition, a Master in Public Health (nutrition major) and a Master in Applied Epidemiology. She is a senior research fellow in the Lifestyle and Health Research Centre at Avondale University College, a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine, and a Registered Public Health Nutritionist with the Nutrition Society of Australia. Her research interests focus on the relationship between lifestyle and the prevention, treatment and reversal of chronic disease, particularly in low- to middle-income countries.

Hannah O’Malley

BPharm & PGCert ClinPharm (Otago), Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition (eCornell University), Clinical Pharmacist and founder of The Better Base.

Hannah grew up in New Zealand and worked in clinical hospital pharmacy in New Zealand for several years before relocating to the UK. Whilst in London, she took on a role at The Health Foundation in evaluation and health research management. A focus on improvement science enabled her to recognise the breadth of challenges facing the health and care system internationally and the limitations of many current interventions to improve outcomes.

Recently she has returned to sunny Nelson and, alongside pharmacy, has set up The Better Base to provide recipes, tools and support for people to transition to a plant-based lifestyle. After researching the evidence on the power of a whole food plant-based diet and completing the Certificate in Plant-based nutrition, it became clear that this area of health needs to be given far more attention! Hannah’s unique understanding of the roles of medications and lifestyle has allowed her to appreciate that there is no medicine that offers anywhere near the benefits of a whole food plant-based lifestyle.

As a lover of the outdoors, it was upon discovering the environmental impact of food that got Hannah interested in plant-based lifestyles. Investigating this further, and learning of the health and ethical considerations, meant that the decision to eat plants was a no-brainer. Hannah is now aiming to help build awareness of the power of a plant-based lifestyle to improve outcomes for our population and our planet.

Liz Williamson

Liz Williamson, BDS (Hons 2nd class) Newcastle University, UK, 1986, Certificates in plant Based Nutrition (eCornell Univ) and WFPB cooking (FOKRouxbe cooking school)

Liz emigrated to NZ in 1986 and worked at Dunedin Hospital Dentistry before moving to Lawrence, West Otago with husband, Martyn, to experience rural dental practice for the next 8 years while bringing up a family of 3 children.

In 1996 the family moved to Alexandra, and she joined Tarbert St Dental Practice where she has worked since. In her dental clinics she coaches her patients to overcome stress and anxiety without the need for drugs. She has explored hypnotherapy techniques, neurolinguistic programming (NLP), life coaching, and Landmark Education programs for personal development. These interests led her to discover “that Sugar Film” and “Forks over Knives” which led to a transformation in Liz’s own diet.

Liz loves cycling, fitness, exercise, and performance. These, combined with a curiosity about the barriers we perceive to lifestyle changes and food has recently led to her helping form PlantStrong Living to deliver information and support to those seeking their best health through whole food, plant-based eating.

Brad Dixon

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPhty), Cert. Sports Med, Cert. Psychology & Counselling, Owner EVERFIT health

Brad graduated from Otago University in 1997 and started his physiotherapy career working through the various specialties at Whanganui hospital. He has worked in private practice whilst completing a certificate in Sports Medicine, and a qualification in Psychology and Counselling.

Brad then bought his current business, EVERFIT, in 2016, re-branding to encompass his mission:

Building impactful relationships to understand the client’s context/background, then empowering the client with holistic daily habits to move them towards a plant based diet, quality relationships, and movement in nature to create strong pillars of wellness.

Brad discusses a plant based diet with all of his clients as it is an important pillar of true wellness. Brad has competed at an international level for his age group in triathlon, enjoys marathon and trail running. He enjoys coaching endurance athletes, writing wellness articles, and taking exercise classes.

Brad’s interest in a whole food plant based diet started when his uncle was diagnosed with bowel cancer and he learned more about the relationship of animal products with disease. He started transitioning in 2014 and has moved along the spectrum to a plant based, nature centered lifestyle firstly for performance and health, then having his mind opened to the inefficiency, and negative environmental impacts of having industrial animal agriculture as a major part of our food system.