Bill Buckley CNZM
For service to Manufacturing
Buckley Systems Ltd
Engineering veteran and leader Bill Buckley is the founder and Managing Director of Buckley Systems Limited – the world’s leading supplier of ion beam physics hardware, high vacuum equipment and precision electromagnets. Buckley Systems’ products are used in the manufacture of silicon chips, high end mechanical machinery, and particle accelerators.
Bill grew up as one of 13 brothers and sisters on the family farm in Te Kauwhata, New Zealand. An innovator from the get-go, Bill always held both a fascination with technology and a desire to create. No stranger to long hours and hard work, as a child Bill managed to juggle working 40 hours every week on his father’s farm with his education at Te Kauwhata District school, as well as the six-mile commute on his bike between the two.
At age 16, Bill left the family home and schooling for an apprenticeship with Auckland shipbuilders Masons. He wanted to build ‘big things’ and at 16, ships were the biggest thing he could think of. After working his way through various manufacturing and engineering jobs, Bill formed Buckley Engineering.
The company survived on modest engineering jobs but struggled to break into international markets, and in 1982 Bill sold the majority of his shares in Buckley Engineering to attain the cashflow needed to keep the company afloat. An opportunity arose later when Buckley Engineering’s main contractor went into receivership, enabling Bill to purchase the contactor’s assets at next to nothing.
Then, despite doubts from his business partner at the time, family members, some customers, a bank or two and even his accountant, he wanted to break into the United States-dominated computer chip market, and so in 1986 he sold off his minority shareholding in Buckley Engineering, and branched out again to found Buckley Systems Limited. Buckley Systems Limited gained momentum from capitalising on the 1987 stock-market crash and a cheap NZ dollar at the time.
Somewhere between then and now, Buckley Systems has remained competitive through the Silicon Valley Tech boom and has grown from 6 to roughly 300 staff members. The company has gone on to produce machinery used in the manufacture of more than 90% of the world’s silicon chips, a big percentage of the flat panel displays, medical beam transport systems and the research industry – all from its premises in Mt. Wellington, Auckland.
Buckley Systems is also part of an emerging market for Proton and Boron Neutron Capture Therapy – systems that will revolutionise non-invasive cancer treatments of the future. Bill is known for working relentlessly on and in the company and can still be found zipping around on-site in a fork lift or working hands-on with the machinery.
Business aside, Bill has also dabbled in building maxi yachts (his own ‘Maximus’ won line honours in the 2005 Fastnet Atlantic race), as well as midget cars and motorbikes to name a few. When he isn’t building one of these amazing machines, he’s often sponsoring the team that is.
Bill’s prevailing passion is the speedway. He is well-known for his enthusiastic support of the motor-racing community to which he has contributed large amounts of money to enable the continuation of the Western Springs Speedway.
When he isn’t in the office, with his wife Bronwyn or any of his seven children, Bill can most likely be found down at the Speedway on the grader grooming the track.
Bill has been recognised with many honours, including the 2011 New Zealand Entrepreneur of the Year Award and 2013 World Class New Zealander Award for Manufacturing, Design and Innovation. In the same year he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to technology, business and motorsport.