1. Unfortunately when you see Tony on television it’s normally to do with bad news on the
West Coast of the South Island, and in particular Greymouth. What many are yet to realise
though is just how unique Greymouth’s Mayor is. Here is his story.
What is the ethnic origin of your surname:
Kokshoorn is Dutch. My father Frank immigrated to New Zealand with 2 brothers in 1952.
He worked in a sawmill at Ruru on the shores of Lake Brunner then moved to Greymouth
working in coalmines for the rest of his life. Kokshoorn is common in the Hague region of
Holland but not in New Zealand. Frank never lost the strong Dutch accent.
What are your family links to the West Coast and specifically Greymouth?
My 89 year old mother was the daughter of pioneer goldminers and sawmillers who with
17,000 others from Australia, Ireland, England, Scotland, wales and USA rushed to the West
Coast in the 1800’s gold boom. Mums parents resided at Maori Gully 20 kms inland from
Greymouth. It is now a ghost town with only one remaining grave headstone dated 1872.
It is surrounded by regenerated forest reminding us that everything is in a constant state of
change. My family moved to Greymouth from Ruru in 1960 when I was 5. My wife, Lynne
is a coalminers daughter from Runanga which is close to Greymouth. We came from big
families, in fact between our parents there were 42 siblings. Lynne and I have four children.
We love living in Greymouth.
Many outside Greymouth may not realise this, but you are actually an inspiring
businessman that many can learn from. How did you go from “rags to riches”?
I was taught good work ethics and my Christian upbringing encouraged helping others
which gives me great satisfaction. In the 1960’s students were encouraged to leave school
at age 15 so with only three years of secondary education I did an apprenticeship as an
engine reconditioner and fitter and turner. My goal was to be self employed taking the risks
but also reaping greater rewards. This is the single best decision that any intending
businessman will ever make. In November 1975 my brother and I started painting cars in
partnership and 40 years later we are still going. I have not taken a sick day off in 40 years
in fact in September this year I snapped my Achilles tendon in a charity game of basketball.
After plastering my leg I phoned Lynne to pick me up and drop me back to work. Its
business as usual at the Mayor’s office. In 1981 we started selling used cars in Greymouth.
In 1987 we were hit hard by the sharemarket crash which taught me that the more you
remove yourself from control of your personal finance the greater the risk of losing your
money and the return on capital is smaller. Your own business is always your best asset
because you control it and you are responsible for making decisions. I went to Japan in
1988 when the “Jap Import” trade began. I travelled there 46 times buying cars. It was
hard work but very rewarding. I own 40% of the Greymouth Star and Hokitika Guardian
newspapers and nowadays I invest in shares that give a good annual dividend yield rather
than claims that a company will do well sometime in the future which is extremely risky. I
avoid debt because greed and debt go hand in hand. I accept that there are times when
borrowing is essential to accumulate assets but when possible get out of debt and stay out
of debt. It makes life less stressful when the inevitable downturn arrives. Always associate
2. with people who think positively. Over the last 20 years I have concentrated on being an
unpaid volunteer fundraiser. I have raised over 30 million dollars for West Coast Charities.
Its not rocket science you just need to be cheeky enough to ask lots of sponsors to give
away lots of money. “The squeaky wheel gets the oil”
What five key bits of advice would you give to aspiring millionaires/kiwi blokes
looking to get ahead financially?
1. Be Self Employed. Earning a wage will not make you a millionaire. You must be
self employed and you must develop skills to be successful. Set a goal for what you
want then work the game plan to achieve ownership of your own business. Focus
on the goal 24/7 and with self discipline you will succeed. At times you might have
to review the game plan but never give up. Focus, Focus and more Focus gets
2. Acquire knowledge. At school there was always the brainy students that were
top of the class. I was not one of them because I was restless with ants in my
pants. I wanted action but schools do not have exams on Leadership, diplomacy,
honesty, tenacity and self discipline. They are the skills that give you the point of
difference as you move through life. Success is 40% skills and 60% strategy.
Education never stops so it is vital to acquire knowledge which will give you the edge
with your competitors.
3. Manage your time. Time management is important if you want to succeed in
business. It is the difference between financial freedom or failure. Time
management applies to every trade, retail store or profession. If there are not
enough hours in the day to run a successful business employ workers to help or
work longer hours. For an example in the Grey District we have had a huge
downturn in our economy over the last 5 years. As Mayor finding solutions to turn
around our flagging fortunes means that I must work harder and longer so I have
turned off the television at night except the news broadcast. It is amazing how
much extra time I have to concentrate on the West Coast economy and fundraising
4. Organise the Organisers. Wealth and financial independence come when you
employ others to help achieve your goals. You need good communication skills
where you can convey your vision with articulation of speech in a way that includes
everyone so that they are in a winning team with job security and good working
conditions. Gaining peoples trust is the hallmark of success.
5. Make giving a habit. Aspiring millionaires should “make giving a habit”. By that
I mean volunteering free time and money to charities. It is the greatest source of
happiness you will ever get. I work with many volunteer organisations and I find
that givers are always happier than takers. Regular exercise and spending time with
family and friends is like charging a battery. It energises the body and enhances the
enthusiasm needed for success in life. Volunteering and helping others down on
their luck does not go unnoticed in the community and they will hold your business
in high regard.
3. Greymouth is wonderful and should be more of a domestic holiday
destination. Give us a dozen things kiwi blokes will enjoy in Greymouth on
their next visit.
Greymouth is a great place to visit. We have excellent transport routes here and over
the years the isolation of the West Coast of the Southern Alps has gone. We have good
broadband, cellphone links and accommodation. Just try the following: Mountain biking,
tramping, fishing, the spectacular Coast Road to the Pancake Rocks, Trans Alpine
express, Monteiths Brewery, Shantytown, big game fishing, Aquatic Centre, hydro-slides
and hot spa, coffee shops, great shopping, museums, heritage sites, whitebait, friendly
coasters and much more. Nobody ever died of stress visiting the West Coast so come
on over. The billy is on.