People, who visited New Zealand, although describing the country’s landscape as the best one they could ever wish for, were usually unlikely to consider moving there on a permanent basis. New Zealanders themselves have long lamented their isolation – a predicament causing half the country’s brightest and most ambitious to flee overseas.
However, it seems a reversal of this trend is now taking place as some of the wealthiest people in the world are buying up property in a land renowned for its natural beauty and open spaces. Alexander Abramov, the Russian steel billionaire who is a business partner of Roman Abromavitch, has had a 30 million pound ‘lodge’ built at Helena Bay in the far north, arguably one of the country’s most stunning beaches. He endeared himself to New Zealanders and its government by agreeing to allow public access to his isolated 500 acre farm and employing Maori people.
Other big spenders showing an interest include Jack Ma, founder of Ali Baba, the world’s largest retailer, who said in April that he would use part of his 21 billion pound fortune to buy a home in New Zealand. Diana Foreman, 56, New Zealand’s wealthiest woman, believes that the country’s attraction is its isolation. London is more than 11,000 miles away and takes 25 hours of flying to reach. ‘New Zealand is a safe haven,’ she said.
Nick Horton, owner of Luxury Real Estate, which sells expensive property to many foreigners, says the US election has produced a spike in enquiries from ‘wealthy Americans, seeking to secure a far-off bolt-hole for themselves or their children if things go awry in their homeland.’
‘Rising levels of unrest around the world were also a contributing factor,’ he added. ‘In American Election years we get added enquiries.’ Officials have noted a surge of enquiries from the UK since the Brexit vote: they are running at double last year’s rate.
At twice the size of England, but with less than a tenth of its population, New Zealand has long been at the top of desirable locations to live. Recently the Legatum Institute in London named it the world’s most prosperous nation, based on rankings covering business environment, education, health, safety and personal freedoms. It said that New Zealand had an unrivalled ability to turn its wealth into prosperity for its inhabitants.
James Cameron, the Canadian born film maker, has built a second home in farmland and forest, north of Wellington. He is so enamoured with it that he has appeared in a promotional film launched by New Zealand’s tourist agency in which he declares he has never before felt such a strong connection to a landscape.
Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, has invested millions of pounds since 2010 in New Zealand’s software and telecom companies. He says he has found his ‘Utopia’. John Key, a former prime minister, was a currency trader based in London. He has described the country as ‘England without the attitude.’
If the very rich are flocking to buy homes in New Zealand then they must surely know what they are doing. For me, however, it is much too late to consider the possibility of uprooting myself at this stage in my life.
In any event, I’m not very comfortable with earthquakes or tsunamis