The mega rich are escaping to New Zealand

Preface. This may not be a wise choice if postcarbon China and other overpopulated Asian nations invade New Zealand and Australia).  And in hard times, property rights of rich foreigners are not likely to be respected.

Other hidey-holes for the rich are islands: 2020 The Island Brokers Are Overwhelmed. “Construction on private islands takes far more time than on the mainland or even on typical, nonprivate islands. And brokers cannot guarantee that islands will be safe havens from civil unrest…Some cost less than $100,000, like the small, rock-strewn strips of land in Canadian lakes. Others reach eight- and nine-digit sums and offer airstrips and prebuilt resorts in turquoise waters in the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report ]

Emma O’Brien. November 5 2016. The Mega rich have found an unlikely new refuge. Bloomberg.

When Hong Kong-based financier Michael Nock wanted a place to escape in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, he looked beyond the traditional havens of the rich to a land at the edge of the world, where cows outnumber people two-to-one.

Nock, the founder of hedge fund firm Doric Capital bought a retreat 9300 km away in New Zealand’s picturesque Queenstown. In the seven years since, terror threats in Europe and political uncertainty from Britain to the US have helped make the South Pacific nation – a day by air away from New York or London – a popular bolthole for the mega wealthy.

Isolation has long been considered New Zealand’s Achilles heel. That remoteness is turning into an advantage, however, with hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson to Russian steel titan Alexander Abramov and Hollywood director James Cameron establishing multi-million-dollar hideaways in the New Zealand countryside.

“The thing that was always working against New Zealand – the tyranny of distance – is the very thing that becomes its strength as the world becomes more uncertain,” Nock, 60, said by phone from Los Angeles during a recent business trip.

Nock’s estate is named “Giverny” after artist Claude Monet’s iconic home and garden in northern France, and the “funny old farmhouse” is surrounded by ponds and mature plants, he said. Nock is converting a barn into an art studio on the property, which overlooks Queenstown’s Shotover River – a fast-flowing, turquoise stretch of water that tourists speed down on jet boats and whitewater rafts.

Twice the size of England, but with less than a tenth of its people, New Zealand ranks high on international surveys of desirable places to live, placing among the top 10 for democracy, lack of corruption, peace and satisfaction. With its $NZ250 billion economy dominated by farming and tourism, the nation last week overtook Singapore as the best country in the world to do business and was rated second to the Southeast Asian nation as the top place to live for expatriates in a survey by HSBC Holdings in September.

House prices in New Zealand increased 12.7 per cent in the year through October, and the average price in largest city Auckland has almost doubled since 2007 to more than $1 million.

Chinese retirees

Jack Ma, founder of e-retailing behemoth Alibaba Group Holding and China’s richest man, told Prime Minister John Key in April that he’d like to buy a home in his country, according to the New Zealand Herald. At least 20 of Ma’s 40-something colleagues have retired there, the newspaper said.

Key, a former currency trader, once described New Zealand as “England without the attitude.” It’s changed leaders just twice in almost 17 years and the last hint of terrorism came a generation ago, when French spies bombed a Greenpeace campaigning ship docked in Auckland harbor in 1985.

It’s that kind of stability that’s attracting a wave of Brexit-inspired migration to the island nation that gained prominence as the otherworldly backdrop to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.

New Zealand received 998 registrations from UK nationals interested in moving to the country the day after the referendum on European Union membership, versus 109 the day before the vote, according to data from the immigration department. That grew to 10,647 registrations in the 49 days after June 23, more than double the same period a year earlier.

Escaping hell

“If the world is going to go to hell in a hand basket, they’re in the best place they could possibly be,” said David Cooper, director of client services at Malcolm Pacific Immigration in Auckland, the country’s biggest migration agency. “People want to get the hell out of where they are and they feel that New Zealand is safe.”

Cooper has seen an uptick in inquiries from US citizens over the past few months, he said, with the increasingly raucous presidential fight between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, as well as the recent spate of mass shootings, cited as reasons to flee.

Kim Dotcom

“The world is heading into a major crisis,” said internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom in October. “I saw it coming and that’s why we moved to New Zealand. Far away & not on any nuclear target list.” The German-born founder of was granted residency in 2010, but is now fighting attempts to extradite him to the US.

Successful Kiwis who have worked in investment banking and other lucrative professions in New York and London are also returning home to raise their families, said Ollie Wall, a realtor with Auckland-based Graham Wall Real Estate. The firm helped broker New Zealand’s most expensive house sale in 2013, when a seven-bedroom mansion on the city’s Paritai Drive was sold to a China-born businessman for $39 million.

“The world has got smaller,” Wall said in an email. “You can run multinational corporations from paradise now. So why wouldn’t you?”

Fidelity National Financial Chairman Bill Foley owns a luxury homestead in the Wairarapa region north of Wellington, and Robertson, chair of Tiger Management LLC in New York, owns two of the nation’s most prestigious golf courses and a luxury lodge overlooking Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu. He says New Zealand is “the most beautiful place on Earth”.

Billionaire Facebook backer Peter Thiel described New Zealand as a “utopia” in 2011 and is reported to have bought residential property in Auckland and Queenstown. Thiel and a spokesman for the PayPal co-founder didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.

New Zealand has actively courted the wealthy. For an investment of $NZ10 million in local assets or funds over a three-year-period, migrants can qualify for residency provided they spent 44 days in New Zealand in each of the two latest years. These investors don’t have to speak English or live for a set amount of time in the country after the qualification period. They also don’t have to become tax residents.

Since the program started six years ago, 121 people have gained so-called Investor Plus visas, and more than 800 have secured a residency pass that requires a $1.5 million investment over four years, government data show.

“It provides a bolthole, a place for ‘just in case’,” said Willy Sussman, a partner at Auckland law firm Bell Gully, which has worked with wealthy migrants from all over the world.

The desire for a haven nestled among snow-capped alps close to an international airport helped house prices in Queenstown increase at more than twice the pace of Auckland in the year through October, reaching an average of $974,564.

Mark Harris, managing director of the town’s Sotheby’s Realty office, said he has sold properties for more than $20 million, including ones with private landing strips.

“We hedge fund people all love optionality,” said Nock, the part-time Queenstown resident from Hong Kong. “Will I live in New Zealand permanently? I’m not sure, but I want the optionality of being able to do that.”


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5 Responses to The mega rich are escaping to New Zealand

  1. The following interview and the corresponding book may be interesting for those considering New Zealand a save haven:
    Ron Asher – In the Jaws of the Dragon: How China Is Taking Over New Zealand ( )

  2. D.B. Turton says:

    So who gets to feed these parasites, and provide them with fuel and heat and air conditioning? The worker-bees of NZ will be treated just as those who provided their “betters” in other places – as servants and serfs.

  3. J Richards says:

    I spent several decades covering the topic of survival retreats and am considered a world expert on the topic. New Zealand is not a safe destination. The amount of money and energy being expended on a ‘safe haven’ isn’t what the media has claimed, these stories are seriously overblown. The entire survival industry is in a total state of collapse now due to global economics, oversaturation and disinterest (Trump is going to save us all). If the world goes to hell, then these remote locations will prove to be the worst of all choices you could have made with limited viability. Isolationists will simply die alone, and in all probability over something incredibly mundane.

    • energyskeptic says:

      I’d be interested in what you have to say about survival retreats. My take on it is that if you aren’t part of the community and have important skills, you won’t be welcome. The billionaires probably have no clue of how to grow some or all of their own food, construct adobe buildings, or anything else worthwhile. If the locals haven’t raided them, then when their canned / freeze-dried food runs out it’s all over.

  4. Jeanette says:

    I don’t have to read about it, because I live in a third world country. I have also lived in the US, so I have seen how both halves live. I used to actually help people (professionally, as a translator) go in the opposite direction! I have also helped the odd North American friend who thought he/she wanted to “escape.” I could write a dissertation on all the false assumptions and mistakes made by the richy-riches when they go this route.

    If you have never witnessed certain third-world phenomena such as police riots (over unpaid wages) and parents selling their children into slavery, you really have no mental frame of reference for even thinking about such a transition. Add to that the fact that most of them do not speak (and will not learn) the language(s), and you a perfect setup for failure and disillusionment (although my heart doesn’t exactly bleed for the highest tax brackets).

    You can hide in the enclaves of your own kind, but that merely marks you out for government liquidation of one kind or another, when they get really desperate (and I have logged many horror stories over the years among expats, nearly all involving deportation, although violent death makes an appearance every now and then). This sort of thing happens rarely at present, but the ease with which it is accomplished legally and bureaucratically tells me that they could streamline the processes in a heartbeat, if things got to the point where the survival of the local system was at stake.