Fraser McKenzie says he’s a ‘city boy who went wrong’, determined from the age of 10 to be a dairy farmer, despite not growing up on a farm. He attended Massey University and worked on farms from a young age, eventually buying a block of land south of Rotorua, which he and his late wife Dorothy farmed for over 60 years.
Fraser also became involved at a much wider level in the farming sector, elected to the Bay of Plenty Harbour Board in 1974, becoming chairman in 1983 and chairman of the Harbours Association of New Zealand three years later. He became foundation chairman for Port of Tauranga Ltd, retiring after 30 years of service.
Fraser heard about Geyser Community Foundation and really liked the idea of giving back in perpetuity. “Dorothy and I got to the stage where we realised that we have more than we need, and we will probably be in a position to leave our children more than they need, so why not support an organisation like Geyser Community Foundation, which helps others in need”?
Fraser and Dorothy started by contributing to the administration costs at Geyser Community Foundation, in its early days as a fledgling foundation. Over time, they also contributed to some of Geyser’s named funds , one to support speech therapy and another supporting migrants, as well as donating to Geyser’s general community fund.
From there, they helped to set up Geyser’s Rural Support Fund, providing the seed capital for the fund to get started. It’s a fund which will support farmers in need and Fraser says some Rotary Clubs are now getting behind fundraising for it, to help it to grow.
Fraser has also made a provision in his will to leave a gift to Geyser Community Foundation, to safeguard and to give back forever to the Rural Support Fund, supporting the local farming community forever.
He likes the idea of the Community Foundation’s sustainable business model, and says everyone can contribute. “I know there are people around the farming community who don’t have relatives or kids that they can leave their property to - there’s a great example in the South Island of farming brothers who will be leaving their farm to their local community – and there is so much potential in New Zealand to do this”.
“But it doesn’t have to go to that stage, people can give now – anything they like really, one hundred, ten thousand, one million dollars – any amount is OK, and the great thing is that it will be invested and will give back forever”.
Why does Fraser do it? He says giving makes him feel good. “I feel it’s nice to spread a bit of good fortune around. We’ve been very lucky, life has worked out alright for us, but there are lots of people who are struggling and need support. Not everyone has the same fortune in life, and we are in a position where we can help. I feel very lucky really”.