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A distinguished honour for a worthy recipient

The highlight of the recent Auckland Branch Awards dinner was the announcement of this year's recipient of the New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Industry.

Ron Chitty (left) with long-time friend Peter Walker at the Auckland Branch Annual Awards dinner last week.
Photo courtesy of Trish Dunell
This year the Auckland Branch gave the award to another worthy recipient who has a lifelong and very full involvement in the industry – Ron Chitty of Haunui Farm.

Ron is a third generation stockman, being raised on sheep and cattle farms where horses played a large part. Growing up in a small Waikato rural township both his grandfathers were adept stockman and he developed at an early age an eye for detail and good stock.

Like many young rural lads he went off to boarding school at an early age, his high school years were spent at King's College where he excelled in sport being Captain of the First X1 and a member of the First XV. He was awarded the All Round Sportsman of the Year trophy and was a school prefect and head of house.

Following school, farming beckoned and his first passion was shorthorn cattle. He became an accomplished breeder and judge of this species. In fact he was one of the youngest judges at the Royal Show making a name for himself with his matter-of-fact decisiveness. He was also very keen on polo and played for a number of years even venturing into breeding polo ponies putting a quarter horse over a thoroughbred cross mare.

After running a 700 acre beef and sheep property for a number of years, the family thoroughbred stud began to expand in such a way that paddocks that were once used for bull calves were soon starting to be taken up by horses. Eventually, a majority of the cattle and sheep were sold and the farm became part of an expanding thoroughbred operation. This continued for a few short years until the sudden death of Ron's father Geoff when the sole responsibility of running the farm fell squarely on Ron's shoulders.

Commuting between the two properties became the norm and with a young family, it was often all hands on deck with wife Caroline and the three children Mark, Sarah and Anna helping out in order to get things done. In 1981, the decision was made to sell the property they had developed to move back to the main family farm at Whitford and Haunui Farm is still in commercial operation today.

Stallions were already a part of the stud operation prior to Ron taking over the reins. However, he was somewhat of a visionary when it came to stallion syndication and he brought a group of major industry players to work together in order to syndicate stallions to bring to New Zealand - a number of these studs are still working together on the basis of this initiative.

Over five decades of heavy involvement with thoroughbreds, Haunui Farm has not only bred and sold sale-topping yearlings through the rings of Trentham and Karaka that have gone on to win Oaks', Derbies and Cups, but the Chitty family has itself owned, part-owned and raced horses that have won Oaks, Derbies and Cups and in many cases, have shared the joy and excitement of racing horses with extended family and friends.

Contributing to the thoroughbred industry is what this award is all about and Ron was active in the Auckland Branch and served on the council of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. For just over a decade, he was involved with the Auckland Racing Club, firstly as a steward, then on the committee where he held the role of Chairman of Tracks and Property. In more recent times, his experience was called upon for the development of the new training tracks at Counties.

Clients, staff, family members and friends all agree that Ron is a great believer in passing on skills and knowledge, and is always willing to give of his time to pass on some words of advice not only in relation to the industry but also, farming, business, and life in general.

In a lifetime that has always been based around farming, whether it is cattle, beef or horses, there is no doubt Ron has always strived to achieve the highest levels of excellence. His attention to detail and the ability to tell if something is not quite right with an animal or if something needs tending to on the farm before a problem arises is obviously something that he learnt from his stockman forebears and it's an attribute that he has passed to his son Mark, and in turn his grandson Matthew receives lessons on looking out for things on the daily round of the farm on the Kubota while enjoying treats from the "Hidey Hole" thus guaranteeing there will be a fifth generation Chitty to take over Haunui Farm one day.

The New Zealand Bloodstock Insurance Auckland Branch award for outstanding contribution to the thoroughbred industry is given to a person who has made an impact in our industry through years of dedication and service at many level.

Past winners of this award include the incomparable Charles Roberts – a leader in the field of equine reproduction, Richard Moore - who through the Soliloquy family has achieved outstanding success as a breeder, Jane McClintock- Bunbury, a member of the Auckland Branch of the NZTBA, an avid supporter of our industry, all branch functions and pedigree analyst.. Two years ago Don McLaren was honoured for his contribution – the founder of BOMAC, one of the largest producers of veterinary products in the world, a successful breeder and former Chairman of the Auckland Racing Club and in 2007 it was John Clydesdale who was recognised for his services to the industry as a long standing member of the Auckland NZTBA Committee and the NZTBA Council and his fostering of relationships with the JBBA.

- Michelle Saba


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