Sky’s the limit for this environmental champion

27 August 2020

It’s a given that if you work at the Otago Regional Council (ORC) you have a love for the environment. But for our very own Melanie Heather, knowing her work is having such a positive impact on protecting the natural playground she calls home is what gets her out of bed every day.

“My official role is Senior Environmental Officer in the compliance team – and when I tell people that, it sounds like I go around with a big stick. It’s really not the case at all,” Melanie explains. “I work with such an array of people within our community to educate, coach and find solutions with them to comply with rules that protect our environment. It can be a slow process, but it’s very satisfying when you’ve experienced success.” 


“It’s literally the most rewarding work you can do. When I go to work and do the work I do, I’m doing it for my neighbours, my friends, my community, for my own hobbies. My role at ORC means there’s no middle person, and I’m having a direct positive impact.” 


Armed with a degree in environmental science and having implemented a major water catchment management policy in the European Union, it was the great outdoors that drew Melanie to immigrate to New Zealand from the emerald isle 14 years ago, a major win for our region’s environment. 


“I travelled around New Zealand for a year, but living and working in the southern lakes district is literally my dream,” she continues. “We bought our home in Cardrona six years ago and we just love the community there; everyone is very happy, helpful and friendly. I like how it’s semi-rural. I love where I live.” 


Despite living on the doorstep on one of the country’s most desirable ski resorts, Melanie is not an avid skier, but no one can suggest she doesn’t make the most of the district’s natural playground with paragliding, pack-rafting, and hiking all common weekend activities, sometimes even together.


“A couple of weeks ago we hiked Sugarloaf Pass, paraglided down into the Dart River and pack-rafted out to the Dart Bridge. It was great craic (fun).”


Melanie Heather, ORC Senior Environmental Officer by Lake Wānaka

Melanie Heather, ORC Senior Environmental Officer by Lake Wānaka

Melanie paragliding from Sugarloaf Saddle, August 2020

Melanie paragliding from Sugarloaf Saddle, August 2020

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