Business Leaders

Pro Q&A with Tim Aitken

Tim Aitken is the new chair of Horse of the Year (HoY). Tim has farmed in Central Hawke’s Bay for many years and is also a CHB district councillor. Tim has had a strong involvement in equestrian being a “Brony”, see below to what that stands for…

What are your key aspirations for the event?

Firstly I have to acknowledge and thank Cynthia Bowers for the six years she has chaired HoY (Hawkes Bay) Ltd board. She has steered HoY through some very tough times and has stepped down at a time with the show in great heart.

  • To deliver the best show in Australasia. We need to continue the partnership with the A&P Society and Hastings District Council in developing the facilities and grounds to their full potential.
  • Attract all the top competitors from around the Australasian region and I would love to see more main stream TV coverage.

Why did you get involved in HoY? And what has been your involvement over the years?

I have always looked at the show as a great event for the equestrian community and Hawke’s Bay, and when the opportunity came to be on the HoY board I took it.

I have been attending HoY for years as a support husband, dad or as my Lucy and Willa call it in our family a “Broney” (men who like ponies) the guy that picks up the poo, holds things, drives the truck, dishes out treats, general do it all person and of course being a volunteer, albeit in a small way compared to some of the hours stalwarts who have made the wheels of HoY turn.

What skills do you bring to the role of chair?

I bring strong Governance skills to the role as chair, I also bring an ability to communicate to all who are involved, from the parents who are supporting their children at HoY and sponsors, volunteers and discipline organisers who put endless voluntary hours into their sections.

Is there anything new planned for the upcoming show?

Eventing is going to see some changes, with the cross country going to be in the afternoon. Some jumps being copied from Burghley Horse Trials and hopefully more international riders competing this time. HoY is one of the few venues in Australasia where riders can expose themselves and their horses to the crowd’s we have around the course like they have at Burghley for example.

If you could make one improvement to the venue (HB A&P Showgrounds) what would it be?

An indoor arena large enough to hold 3000 plus people, that would have an interchangeable surface. We would have night time events going on all week for the public to come into after work, weather would not have such an impact. Competitors and horses would get the experience of being indoors which is how a lot of big competitions are now being held. This would not just be a positive for HoY and the equestrian community, but also all of Hawke’s Bay.

Likewise – with the event – what would you like to improve?

I would like to see an ongoing improvement in the competitor experience, and see competitors take a more active role in supporting the show by volunteering when they have down time. At the end of the day it is their show.

• A more international feel, with more international riders and stall holders attending.

• Better night time entertainment, we have not always got this right in the past and is high on the Boards list of areas that needs improving.

Another area that we hope to improve on is around the none-riding volunteers experience, how can we do it better for them so that they feel part of the family that is HoY and want to come back year after year.

What do you see as the benefits of HoY to HB? And to Hastings as the host city?

The economic benefit that comes from hosting HoY. Spotlight on Hawke’s Bay of all the wonderful things we have in the Bay from food, wine, tourism opportunities the list goes on.

How can Hastings and its people embrace HoY more?

To come to the show and see what it is all about. Volunteer for half a day, a day or more. Volunteers are the life blood for this show, without them we could not run it.

Will Hastings always be the home of HoY?

I would very much like it to stay in Hastings. It is very high on my agenda to look at what the board and the shareholders want HoY to look like in 2027. We cannot do it all in one year we need to create a strategy going forward to meet our aspirations for the show and to ensure that Hastings keeps HoY.

What’s the current economic impact of the event?

14,767 people attended the 2018 show, of which 11,178 were domestic visitors and 224 international visitors. 80 percent were from outside Hawke’s Bay which has a contribution to tourism in Hawke’s Bay of $4,495,000 excl GST

What’s the biggest thrill you get out of being involved in HoY?

Just being a part of it all, meeting people, from all walks of life all over New Zealand and the world who have made it their mission to come HoY. Walking around and feeling the buzz, visiting each discipline area and watching everything unfold and marvel at how it has all come together. I have met some super people. This year I had a reciprocal visit to Liz Inman who is in charge of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials and had a fabulous tour around the Burghley grounds.

What keeps you awake at night in the lead up to and during the event?

The weather, always the weather and the budget!

What do you do in your spare time?

When the weather is good I try and go fishing with my son Jim, enjoy supporting Lucy and Willa with their horses and I have just taken up flying again after a 15-year hiatus.