Investing in his future

Last updated 05:00 15/12/2013
Colin Craig
COLIN CRAIG: A man with a plan.

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Conservative Party leader Colin Craig tells Matt Nippert his investment in politics may not have paid off yet but then he considers it a long-term investment.

Businessman and politician Colin Craig is very sure of himself. Despite no links to major parties, or even any political profile to speak of, he stolidly founded his own party - the Conservative Party - and has ambitions to enter Parliament next year.

Running the Conservatives has become a fulltime job, but prior to that Craig ran an accountancy practice on Auckland's North Shore and then turned to property management with his Centurion Management Services.

How financially savvy are you?

Very.

Does this extend to running a household budget?

We do that. We have a household budget and stick to it, and report back at the end of the year. Last year's review of finance was at the dinner table. We keep it simple. We do everything through credit card and I have a direct debit in place and never pay it late - I wouldn't want to give the bank any money.

What was your first job?

A paper round. I was young, and would have been at intermediate school. It was in Howick and was mostly advertising pamphlets and the local paper - the Times or the Courier. Sometimes you'd get circulars added in and you'd love it: It was more money for the same amount of walking. I don't remember what I got paid. It wasn't a whole heap, but it still bought you something - one cent lollies existed then.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude to money?

It was a big influence, with a single teacher's income supporting seven. I don't think I ever had new clothes until I went to high school. I wasn't the oldest, so it was hand-me-downs until then. We never went on expensive holidays. It was always "Can we borrow someone's caravan and find a campground?"

Are you a collector?

Not really. I collect some art but just modestly priced pieces that I like. I mostly buy it to encourage the artist.

So it's more an act of patronage than investment?

I quite appreciate that people put time into pictures and sculptures. I'm not expecting to make any money out of it. At the end of the day it's artwork we like looking at.

What was your best investment decision?

Installing networking equipment into a building when we didn't even know if it would be used. I've always been prepared to take a risk around those sorts of things, and it was a bit of a gamble on balance - we gave it a shot and it turned out to be very profitable to us. I hate to use the gambling phrase "roll of the dice" - because it was more educated than that.

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Do you actually gamble?

Occasionally, only when buying a raffle ticket where the proceeds go to a good cause.

What's been your biggest investment mistake?

I haven't really made any.

Isn't business all about risk - yours can't all have been successful, surely?

There's none that I can think of. Sometimes they don't work out as well as you plan, but I've never had a situation where they haven't panned out at least even.

So the $450,000 you spent on a failed bid to overturn the smacking ban law was a success?

I guess people would look and say, "You've sunk an awful lot into politics to date and it hasn't paid off." But it's just the beginning of the story, If I hadn't done that we wouldn't be where we are today. I do see it as an investment, but I'm not expecting to see it pay off soon.

Are you in KiwiSaver?

No. I get a much better return investing my money directly into business enterprises.

In your view, is real estate a wise investment?

I don't think our preoccupation with property is healthy, but I understand why we do it in this country. We have quite a dysfunctional market in Auckland in that property prices are not reflective of reality: we have a bubble. They look at it and think "I can get an above-average return in property" - and it's true, which is annoying. In terms of investment, to have property outperforming business investments is a negative. We would be better served if it was directed elsewhere.

- Sunday Star Times

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