KiwiBuild's new chief executive remembers how he and his wife struggled to buy their first home 31 years ago.
In 1987, Stephen and Diane Barclay paid $120,000 for a character home in John St, Ponsonby.
"Of course it was hard," he says now. "We were paying about 17 per cent interest and we mortgaged ourselves to the hilt. My father-in-law gave me advice: 'borrow as much as you can for as long as you can and hold on, because inflation's going to take care of your cashflow'. Because you're young and inflation is high, your salary is going up. I can't give that advice to my kids.
"It was not easy back then, borrowing the maximum and getting a second mortgage as well to do that ... "
They sold four years later for more than $300,000, proving his father-in-law correct.
The couple now live in their own home in Remuera. Via trusts, of which they are not trustees, they own that property, an investment property in Newmarket and a holiday home at Waihi Beach - "when I was working overseas it was a bolthole that no one knew where I was, kitted out with good internet".
Barclay was born in Mangakino in 1960 to Ina and Richard Barclay, a butcher who ran a shop in Glen Innes, Auckland, before changing career and managing North Island pubs. They included Auckland's Victoria Hotel, patronised by Marist brothers teaching at Ponsonby's St. Paul's College. His mum got chatting to the brothers and they invited her to send him to the school.
That resulted in him going there from form one to form seven.
"I had a fantastic time boarding there and it helped shape me," says Barclay. "St. Paul's was a great school of different cultures. It had a healthy dose of Polynesian kids but there was no Catholic school out west so all the Dalmatian families would come in and then some farmers' sons as well. So you put them all in the melting pot and it really worked. We didn't know till afterwards that some of the social welfare kids went there to get them on the straight and narrow.
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"It made me a resilient kid who enjoyed all the successes. At boarding schools, you've got to be self-sufficient. From the age of 15 I was doing my own washing, primarily because I was sick and tired of losing my gear to the laundry people."
Barclay was a prefect, played rugby and cricket, and competed in athletics and swimming, "representing the school in all those. I was the school sportsman of the year in 1977."
He got a civil engineering degree from Auckland University and a business administration master's from Melbourne University, then started work in construction. After moving to property group Lendlease in Sydney and Melbourne, he returned to New Zealand as Fletcher Construction's general building manager, then went into consulting and joined PA Consulting in England.
"After a short time, I moved back to New Zealand to establish PA's projects practice here and from there, led a number of New Zealand's largest mergers."
He is an ex-director of housing business Modular Building Systems, but his initial foray into prefabs failed.
"In 1991, I was working as managing partner of PA Consulting in the UK with offices here and then went out and paid a quarter of a million to buy into Modular in New Zealand.
"Three months later, it went broke. A job came to an end and the developers didn't pay the bills. We weren't capitalised enough. Its major creditor was Carter Holt Harvey, which called in the receivers.
"The concept was a great one. The problem was, it delivered its product to the site and developers didn't pay. All the modules we delivered that month weren't paid for, so we couldn't sustain those debts. I bought into the business with existing contracts. It was a great business model in terms of what it was producing in those days, but the terms of those contracts were used to destroy the company.
"Carters knew I was an innocent party in that. They liked the model and asked me to put it together where the contract was with Carters. So I set up the [joint venture] and they bought me out a couple of years later."
In 2007, the lifelong non-smoker was diagnosed with throat cancer and paid for more sophisticated Australian chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment than was available in New Zealand. "Life throws you curve balls," he says. "My way of dealing with it was to tackle it head-on."
He recovered well, but was left with a dry throat.
In 2007, Barclay began eight years in sport, sparked partly by his a long-time friendship with champion yachtsman Sir Russell Coutts, who he had met at university and also knew via Coutts' father, with whom Barclay had worked at Mainzeal.
"Russell knew I ran big projects so he asked to come and set up for him, so I was chief operating officer for Oracle [Team USA] for four years and we won the Cup."
Oracle's boat was built at Warkworth's Core Builders Composites, of which Barclay was a director.
He was then appointed chief executive of the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco, where Team New Zealand led almost to the finish, only to be defeated by Oracle - the very team he had worked for.
Barclay and the family lived in an apartment in the lively North Beach area, which he remembers fondly.
He remains proud of his America's Cup role, even though some Kiwis were angry with him over the Oracle cheating scandal, because as CEO of the event, he said there was "negligible" public response to Oracle's conduct. Some think he could have been more loyal: "When I saw he was KiwiBuild chief, I thought 'what the hell's he doing there?'," says one critic.
"Good luck with that," says another, of Barclay's chances of succeeding with KiwiBuild.
Barclay acknowledges New Zealanders' "animosity" towards Coutts and Brad Butterworth, but says that feeling dissipated and he regrets nothing.
"I came out of a life-changing experience with cancer and that gave me the opportunity to be involved in the America's Cup. I probably wouldn't have taken that if I didn't have cancer. It gave me a different perspective on life."
After the Cup, he worked on sponsorship for a US TV sports/lifestyle programme, shown after NFL games.
He then returned to New Zealand to work on Ministry of Health and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment projects, as well as being appointed a director of ChristchurchNZ, that city's economic development and city profile agency.
Soon, he will appoint 10 private developers to build some of the first 1000 KiwiBuild homes, mainly apartments on previously stalled sites.
That will mark his next career phase.
• On heading the Government's plan for 100,000 affordable high-quality homes: "I had to be persuaded because I haven't been in the government sector for a long time and then only for two years. I made it a condition that I had to talk to the Minister.
"I found someone [Phil Twyford] I could really work with. He valued my opinion. I could talk frankly with him - and also, my own kids are in a sweet or tough spot of first home ownership."
• On KiwiBuild's achievability: "Absolutely, we can build 100,000 in 10 years because the industry is constrained by things that are solvable: building material prices, skills and land supply shortages, land prices and building methodologies. It's about making a whole bunch of changes and about how we use the KiwiBuild balance sheet," says Barclay - referring to KiwiBuild's $2b recyclable budget.
• On his career: "People tell me I've had four careers in one lifetime: construction, consulting, the America's Cup and now in government. The common theme is getting experts together for big projects."
• Age: 58
• Job: Chief executive, KiwiBuild
• Lives: Remuera
• Family: Married to Diane; daughters Grace, 31; Eleanor, 30; Kathleen, 25
• Other roles: Director, ChristchurchNZ