Neil and Hazel MacMillan are a double act, juggling dozens of volunteer roles with running a Far North farm so it’s fitting that they’ve pulled off a rare double by both receiving a Queen’s Service Medal for services to the community.
Both have been deeply involved with farming and community causes for more than 30 years, first from their dairy farm on Puketotara Rd, west of Kerikeri, and for the past nine years from their 280ha sheep and beef farm in the picturesque Utakura Valley west of Okaihau.
Mrs MacMillan has previously held leading roles in Rural Women New Zealand and was a founding member of the Life Education Trust in the Far North and the local Civil Defence committee.
Mr MacMillan, whose five years in the army included one in Vietnam, has been instrumental in the Kaikohe and Districts RSA, serving as vice-president and president for 14 years, and has organised Okaihau’s Anzac Day service for the past 20 years.
Much of their community work is done together, or one will look after the farm to free the other up for volunteering.
Both are active members of the Okaihau Lions Club and encourage young farmers through the Farm Cadet Scheme and by hosting agricultural exchange students.
Since 2006 Mr MacMillan has been chairman of the Northland Regional Animal Health Committee, while Mrs MacMillan is the organisation’s secretary and minute-taker. Right now they are organising a Vietnam vets’ reunion at Waitangi in June.
A full list of the causes and organisations they have been involved with would fill up much of this page.
Mr MacMillan was raised in Broadwood, North Hokianga, meeting his English-born wife-to-be via the Waikato Tramping Club when both were living in Hamilton.
They married soon afterwards, starting their farming career as sharemilkers at Waihi before returning to the North.
They have three children, twins Nancy and Jenny, 32, and David, 29.
Mrs MacMillan said she had been influenced by the uncle and aunt who brought her up in England.
“They did a huge amount of work for other people without reward. I really enjoy it. You meet people with huge generosity of spirit, you have fun, and why not?” she said.
One thing the pair was certain of: “We couldn’t have done any of this without support from each other.”
Article complements of the Northern Advocate, photo by Peter de Graaf.
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