Farming for Neil Heather is a juggling act between day-to-day farm work and advocating the interests of fellow farmers in the wider Lake Rotorua catchment.
The Heather family having been farming on Paradise Valley Rd since 1921. Today Neil lives in the original family homestead nestled on the tree-lined banks of the Ngongotaha River.
Awarua Farm is one of the last remaining large farms on Paradise Valley Rd because much of the surrounding land has been developed into lifestyle blocks and tourism ventures. The 355 hectare sheep and Angus beef stud property on the slopes of Mt Ngongotaha is now bordered by 16 lifestyle blocks.
Neil has a keen interest in protecting the local environment. He has planted thousands of trees on the banks of the Ngongotaha and Umurua trout streams that run through his property. He has established four ponds to manage run-off from Mt Ngongotaha and was a key figure in establishing the Ngongotaha Bush Protection Group.
Neil is no stranger to the political landscape. He was the chair of Rotorua-Taupo Federated Farmers for 4 years (2008-12) and is now an the Co-Chair of the Lake Rotorua Primary Producers Collective (Deputy Chair).
“The draft rules, in their current state, are going to make it challenging for drystock farmers in the area to stay profitable. I’m looking at a 32% reduction in profit if the draft Nitrogen Discharge Allocations are implemented in their current form” says Neil. “I want to see some recognition of past efforts to reduce impacts on the lake”.
Neil believes the Collective plays a critical role in ensuring that proposed solutions for mitigating nitrogen loss into the lake are fair and that local drystock farming has a sound future.