Farming and rugby communities are in shock after the sudden death of Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year Paul "Butch" Renton.

Mr Renton, who with wife of 27 years Marie accepted the 2017 Farmer of the Year title at the Hawke's Bay Primary Sector Awards just four months ago, was found dead on Wednesday morning at Glenmore Station, the Mangatahi property west of Hastings on which he grew up.
Police have said no foul play was involved and the matter has been referred to the coroner.

Glenmore Station has been in the Renton family since 1858 and in 1996 Mr Renton became the fifth generation of the family on the diverse 544ha property, farming beef, deer and sheep, with 32ha in forestry.

Aged 54 and father to daughters Elsa and Zana and Hurricanes rugby player son Hugh, Mr Renton is also survived by his parents, brother and successful Wairarapa farmer Andrew Renton, and sisters, Havelock North florist Susanna Todd and Christchurch-based Juliet Flanagan.

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A service to celebrate his life will be held at The Exhibition Hall at the Hawke's Bay A&P Showgrounds on Wednesday at 2pm.

The rural community's feelings were highlighted by Primary Sector Awards committee chairman and former Hawke's Bay A and P Society president Peter Tod, who said from his Central Hawke's Bay farm on Thursday, 24 hours after learning of the death: "I just don't know what to say. I'm still in shock."

"It will ripple right through the rural community in Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Wairarapa," he said. "Our thoughts are very much with the family, this is an absolute tragedy."

Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay president Will Foley said the region's farming community would do everything they could to help and support Mr Renton's family.

"It's a huge tragedy for Mr Renton's family and the whole farming community of Hawke's Bay feels for them.

"Our thoughts are with his family at this time."

He also hoped that any farmers, or others, feeling saddened by Mr Renton's death or their own personal situations would not hesitate to reach out to their friends and neighbours.

For former Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills the loss of Mr Renton would leave a hole in the Hawke's Bay farming community.

"It's a tragic loss of a farming leader . . . I'm shocked to hear he's no longer with us," Mr Wills said.

"I salute him for his reputation and his contribution to so many things, we'll certainly miss him."

His family have expressed their sadness at the passing of their "humble hero" and "gentle giant" who was a loyal, caring and focused family man.

Mr Renton's brother-in-law David Todd said he was a popular, highly respected man of the community and a "friend to a cast of thousands".

"Paul's values across rugby, farming and family were strong. He cared passionately about what he did and would always put his family and team first".

Mr Renton was also a prominent rugby player - almost an All Black.
"He had a gifted talent for rugby and a unique ability to read the game. He was always in the right place at the right time and would always run to where the ball was going to be."

His cousin Brent Paterson said Mr Renton always gave everything 110 per cent and reached ultimate heights.

"He was a doer, he would always get things done and never let anyone down in the work he did on the farm, on the rugby field and at home.

"Paul was a high achiever but he never sought the limelight and would be more surprised than anyone to achieve the top award. He was a very humble man and was loved by everyone.

"Paul was very close and loyal to his family - always on the sidelines of his daughter's netball and son's rugby and was incredibly generous with his time."

At rugby, Mr Renton was a loose forward who, while a student at Rathkeale College near Masterton, represented New Zealand Secondary Schools in 1980 and played for a Wairarapa-Bush Invitation XV in the same year.

He then played for New Zealand Colts in 1983, New Zealand Juniors in 1984, North Island and New Zealand Emerging Players in 1986 and Central Zone and the New Zealand Divisional XV in 1988 and 1989.

He played for Massey University in Palmerston North, Mayfield while shepherding at Mt Somers Station in the South Island, and Hastings High School Old Boys (now part of merged club Hastings Rugby and Sports), and is credited with 90 first-class games, including one for Manawatu (1983), 21 for Mid-Canterbury (1984-1985) and 44 for Hawke's Bay (1986-1989).

The rugby tradition is being continued by his son, who was signed by Super Rugby franchise the Hurricanes direct from Lindisfarne College. Last year he made his debut for both Hawke's Bay and the Hurricanes, for whom he had a brief stint as captain less than a fortnight after his 21st birthday.

Hawke's Bay rugby evergreen Richard Hunt, who coached the Magpies side for the four years of Mr Renton's career in the jersey, said "Butch" Renton was a part of a powerful loose forward trio with No 8 John Bird and All Blacks blindside flanker Mark Shaw which paved the way for second division honours in 1988.

"He gave every ounce he had, no matter who he was playing for," Mr Hunt said. "There was no more honest player around."

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