Alec Neill was born in Dunedin, the youngest son of Alfred George Neill QC. then a prominent barrister practising in Dunedin. Alec Neill was raised at Allans Beach on the Otago Peninsula, attended the Hoopers Inlet Primary School and then attended St. Kevin's College, Oamaru, and the University of Otago where he graduated with an LLB. He commenced his law career with Ross Dowling Marquet and Griffen in Dunedin before shifting to Oamaru in 1974, joining solicitors George Berry and Evan Alty in the firm of Hjorring Tait and Farrell. Alec Neill became a partner on 1 May 1976 (then aged 25) and the firm was rebranded as Berry Alty and Neill. He remained a partner of the firm until elected to Parliament in 1990.
He was first elected to parliament in the 1990 election as MP for Waitaki, and was re-elected in the 1993 election. He chaired parliament's Planning and Development Select Committee, which oversaw the passing of the Resource Management Act 1991. He also chaired parliament's Justice and Law Reform Select Committee. In the 1996 election, Mixed Member Proportional(MMP) had been introduced to New Zealand as its voting preference and the existing 99 seats under 'first Past the Post (FPP)were reduced to 60 electorate seats. The seat of Waitaki was dissolved. Neill did not win selection for the seat of Otago then held by the Hon. Warren Cooper and so stood only as a list candidate on the National Party list. In the first MMP election he narrowly missed out on entering Parliament as a list MP.
In 1999, Paul East resigned from Parliament to take up a diplomatic post, and as Neill was the next candidate on National's list, he was brought into parliament as a replacement. Soon afterwards, however, Neill lost his seat in the 1999 election, where he once again fell just below the cut-off. In 2001, Simon Upton resigned, and Neill was again the next candidate on the National Party list, allowing him to return to parliament.He was appointed as junior whip during Jenny Shipleys tenure as leaders. In October 2001 Bill English replaced Shipley as leader. Neill offered his resignation as whip and was appointed by English as National's spokesperson for Local Government. In 2002 he wrote National's manifesto on Local Government, the Resource Management Act and Conservation.
In the 2002 election, Neill was highly placed on the National Party's list. However, English as the new leader of National and Leader of the Opposition failed to improve the party's performance or ratings. In the 2002 election, National suffered its worst electoral defeat ever, gaining barely more than twenty percent of the vote. Both party insiders and the general public were split as to how much to blame English for this loss, but Neill was a victim of this disastrous election result and lost his seat again — this time, however, he was substantially below the cut-off, and therefore was not called on to replace another departing list MP during the 2002/05 term. He did not stand in the 2005 election.
In April 2003, Neill was elected to Canterbury Regional Council as a councillor for the Christchurch West constituency. This was a by-election caused by the deaths of Cr. Neil Cherry and Cr. Peter Yeoman. Neill was re-elected in October 2004 and October 2007.
On 25 October 2007, he lost a vote to become chairperson to Sir Kerry Burke by one vote after the voting by councillors was initially tied at seven votes each. On 12 November 2007, he was appointed as the chair of the Regulations Hearing Committee jointly with Cr. Angus McKay. In Mid 2009 the Minister for the Environment, Hon. Nick Smith expressed concerns about the performance of Canterbury Regional Council after the release of an Ministry for Environment survey. In September 2009 the 10 Mayors of Canterbury wrote to the Minister of Local Government(Hon Rodney Hide) and Minister for the Environment (Hon. Nick Smith) setting out concerns in relation to their relationships with Canterbury Regional Council
On 24 September 2009, Neill became Chairman of Canterbury Regional Council after the previous chairman, Sir Kerry Burke, lost a motion of no confidence from the other councillors and it was voted that he be removed from office. On the same day the Local Government minister The Hon.Rodney Hide announced the intention of the Government to conduct a review of the performance of Canterbury Regional Council. Neill as caretaker chair welcomed the review and agreed his Council would fully co-operate with the review team. The review took place in Nov/Dec 2009 and a report was provided to the Ministers in February 2010 (the "Creech Report")The report was damning of the Council in respect of its water management in Canterbury but was otherwise of a positive nature. The Government considered the report and chose to replace the elected councillors on 1 May 2010 with The Hon. Nick Smith appointing commissioners for the equivalent of one election cycle so a Water plan could be decided and implemented. Neill said fittingly in the last meeting of his council on 22 April 2010 that he and his wife would "ride off into the sunset", thus ending Neill's 20 years in politics. While the Government promised under the special legislation to hold democratic election for the Canterbury Regional Council in 2013, they changed their mind, announcing in 2012 that no election will be held until 2016.
Alec Neill is a consultant solicitor with Lane Neave, lawyers Christchurch and is part of the 'Life Law' team. He was a partner at Berry & Co, Oamaru for 15 years (1976–1990) before being elected to Parliament in 1990 as the MP for Waitaki. After relocating to Christchurch in 1997 he purchased the Shirley office of Wood Marshall, solicitors and practised as Neill & Co. Alec Neill has a wealth of experience across general legal issues but now concentrates on rural and commercial, company, trusts and estate planning law. He is a certified RMA commissioner and has sat on many hearings involving RMA consent applications in Canterbury.In 2013 he was appointed by the EPA as a commissioner to hear and determine the 'Tukituki Proposal'in the Hawkes Bay. This panel was chaired by the Hon. Justice Chisholm. This hearing included the hearing of the 'Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme Resource Consent.The Plan Change was approved and resource consent granted but has since been appealed. The water storage scheme is at present in limbo. In 2015/16 Alec Neill sat as a commissioner as part of the panel to hear and determine the 'Christhurch District Replacement Plan'. The panels were chaired by Hon. Justice Sir John Hanson
In 2009 Alec Neill was appointed onto the Board of the Canterbury Community Trust (now known as 'The Rata Foundation') On 1 July 2011 he was elected as chair of that Board and remained in that position until 2013.The Canterbury Community Trust a philanthropic trust with investments in excess of $(NZ)500,000,000. The trust distributes over $20,000,000 each year to charitable and sporting organisations in Canterbury, Nelson and Marlborough, New Zealand. In July 2012 Alec Neill accepted a three-year appointment to the board of SBS Bank, one of a few wholly New Zealand-owned banks. Since his retirement from the board in July 2015 the Board appointed him as an 'SBS Bank Ambassador' He is the current Chair of the Advisory Board for Online Distributions, one of New Zealand's leading third party logistics providers
Alec Neill is married to wife Diane and has a blended family of 5 children. He remains active in tennis, golf and bowls