The areas which HEARD encompasses are primarily small crofting hamlets, scattered around the village of Hillswick. Several of those crofts are used only for grazing sheep and often by people not resident in the area, in some cases this has resulted in croft houses going to ruin or being sold on to an ever increasing in-migration of early retirees, whereby causing even more depopulation among the young folk through lack of affordable property and no availability of croft land for young would be crofters.
The area has social housing provided by Shetland Islands Council and Hjaltland Housing Association, there is sheltered accommodation for the elderly or disabled at Urafirth and Hillswick. Meanwhile discussions are ongoing with Hjaltland Housing concerning the construction of two much needed family houses in Eshaness.
There is one commercial boat catching crabs and white fish and there is an oyster and a scallop farm. The fish processing factory at Ronas Voe closed some years ago due to the lack of white fish but has reopened recently to process farmed salmon from two local sites as well as those brought in from salmon farms located elsewhere in Shetland.
This area has a number of valuable amenities benefiting those who do live here and those who visit. For instance there is a Health Centre, Primary School, a Church, Fire Station and a Coastguard Station. Two Post Offices, a Grocers Shop with an Off-license, a small Museum, which provides local tourist information, two Café/restaurants, and a Hotel - which is at present closed. Social events are held in the Public Hall and Community Centre, there is a Broadcasting Studio, a Blacksmith, a Wildlife Sanctuary, and an Art Gallery all enhance life here.
Self-catering, bed and breakfast and camping böd accommodation are available for visitors wishing to stay and enjoy the beauty of HEARD's area.
In 2004 Northmavine was granted Initiative at the Edge status because of the fragile nature of its communities