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

Mr Renton, who with wife of 27 years Marie (nee Tait, of Wairoa) accepted the 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.

It has been in the Renton family since 1858, and in 1996 Mr Renton became the fifth generation of the family in charge when he and his wife took over from parents John and Margaret Renton.

Aged 54, the father of three was also a prominent rugby player - almost an All Black.


The Farmer of the Year title was presented in front of over 300 people in the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds Tomoana events centre on April 6. The traditional winning property field day was held on May 4 at Glenmore, a diverse 544-hectares property farming beef, deer and sheep, with 32ha in forestry.

The rural community shock was 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."

At rugby, Paul 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.

His son, Hugh Renton, plays for both the Hurricanes and Hawke's Bay Magpies.

There was a minute's silence for Renton, and Sir John Graham, before kick-off in the Canterbury defence of the Ranfurly Shield in Ashburton today.