The ultra-rich, particularly the tech elite from Silicon Valley, are reportedly gobbling up real estate on New Zealand’s south island as “apocalypse insurance.” Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, told The New Yorker in 2017: “Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is a kind of wink, wink, say no more.”
James Cameron, film director of movies such as the Titanic and Avatar, bought 2,500 acres of land in New Zealand, reportedly moving there and intending to live off the land away from big cities.
Julian Robertson, a millionaire hotelier, owns not one but three luxury estates in New Zealand. The land includes a remote mountain resort with multiple helicopter landing sites. The land includes working sheep and cow farms.
This is just a mere sampling of the uber-rich moving in, however. There are now real estate agencies in New Zealand catering just to these clients.
New Zealand Parliament Says No
This “buy expensive land in New Zealand” trend is happening to such a degree that it has created a nationwide housing crisis in the country, prompting the New Zealand Parliament to passing the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill in 2018 barring most foreign visitors from purchasing homes or land within the country by categorizing it as “sensitive land.”
But how did billionaires buying up empty land in New Zealand as a means of escaping TEOTWAWKI reach such a degree that Parliament had to pass a law to address it? The story is as interesting as the land itself. I’ll explain, but first…
Why are Billionaires Worried about a Collapse?
You would think that of anyone who shouldn’t be worried about societal collapse it would be the richest people in the world. After all, they should be well-equipped to weather a storm of any kind, no? What do they have to fear?
The answer to this question is two parts: 1) they are worried for the same reasons every prepper is, and 2) if SHTF, they will be prime targets for angry mobs looking for resources and/or revenge against the wealthy elite.
Reasons to Prepare
Unless you are arriving at this article by chance or research, you are probably already a prepper to some degree and you are familiar with the reasons why people prep. While those reasons may have been seen as fringe or radical at one point, that is now the past. Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession, COVID-19, the reasons to prepare become more evident as time goes on.
Yishan Wong, an early Facebook employee and former CEO of Reddit, was quoted as saying:
Most people just assume improbable events don’t happen, but technical people tend to view risk very mathematically. The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely. They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.
Billionaires are not stupid people, they see all of the reasons, too. In fact, because of their connections, because of the inner knowledge on technology, the economy, etc., they may be even more aware of the reasons to prepare. So, take comfort in the fact that some of the nation’s best minds are now coming around to your way of prepper thinking. In other words, the “great minds” agree with you!
Wealth = Target
Now, let’s imagine some type of TEOTWAWKI event. The exact event doesn’t matter. What matters is the world has gone to hell, there is no rule of law, it’s chaos in the streets, and people are beginning to wonder where their next meal will come from. People will look for resources, and that consequently means targets. They will target the Wal-Marts of the world to start, then, as they look for food for their hungry children, they will begin to target others. You, me, and other preppers, we know this. We try to avoid becoming a target (see Three Rules Preppers Must Follow to Avoid Becoming Targets).
Now imagine for a moment you are a multi-millionaire. No, a multi-billionaire. You have money – lots of it. Everyone knows your name. And, what might be worse, you – in the eyes of some – might be partly to blame for the reasons the world has fallen apart. You, the ultra-rich, the elite, the holier-than-thou person who thinks you’re so great sitting in your ivory castle while everyone else struggles to get by… how do you think you will be viewed by the hungry, angry mob?
Billionaires will be prime targets WTSHTF. They’re not stupid. They know this. And they have way more reason to worry about being targeted than you or I.
How Billionaires Began Looking at New Zealand
Logic might flow that those with the financial wherewithal to buy a bug out location anywhere in the world would just look for someplace as remote as can be. Extreme remoteness doesn’t necessarily drive a “best” location, however, and the story of billionaires’ interest in New Zealand actually starts somewhere else.
It started with Peter Thiel.
The story of how these billionaires (mostly from Silicon Valley) began looking at New Zealand starts with Peter Thiel. Who is Peter Thiel? He was born in Germany, went to Stanford University, and co-founded PayPal. He took his wealth from there and became a venture capitalist. In 2004, he invested $500,000 into Facebook. He sold those shares in 2012 for over $1 billion. He has an estimated net worth of roughly $2.5 billion. He is one of the wealthiest persons in the world.
It started with a book.
According to Mark O’Connell, who authored Notes from an Apocalypse (which also covers this subject in detail), Peter Thiel’s obsession with New Zealand as a bug out location began with the book The Sovereign Individual: How to Survive and Thrive During the Collapse of the Welfare State. The book, in a nutshell, describes how a modern civilization would collapse and be rebuilt.
The “cognitive elite” would emerge from their hiding spots, after the end of the world, commanding vastly greater resources than everyone else. After everything had completely crumbed, these “elite” would re-build the new world from the ruins. It would be their new world.
Thiel read this book and became so moved by it that he began passing it around his circle of Silicon Valley billionaires. Thiel, apparently, fancied himself and his peers as the “cognitive elite” that the authors were speaking of (pretentious much?). They are the ones who would lead the new world. What’s more, the book’s authors identified the ideal location for these cognitive elite to sit out the apocalyptic storm… New Zealand.
It continued with movies.
Peter Thiel has another book obsession – The Lord of the Rings. While that fictional trilogy has nothing to do with New Zealand – the movies certain do. They were filmed there!
It is just theory, but the theory is that Thiel’s obsession with Lord of the Rings added to his growing focus on New Zealand. Is it any wonder why? The cinema-photography of the films is nothing short of astounding. The vast landscape, the mountains, the water. The land looks to most any observer as a magical place. If you were going to sit out the end of the world as we know it, why not do it in Middle Earth?
Of course, Middle Earth is fantasy. The ultra-rich have practical reasons for choosing New Zealand.
Why Billionaire Preppers Choose New Zealand
In 2015, Peter Thiel dropped a cool $10 million dollars on a 477-acre estate on Lake Wanaka in New Zealand, New Zealand’s fourth largest lake. The Sovereign Individual book Thiel passed around described the country, as “the domicile of choice for wealth creation in the Information Age.” But why?
The ridiculously wealthy can bug out on their private jet to anywhere in the world. No air strip? They can have one made. Of all the beautiful places in the world available to them, why choose to hide out in New Zealand? There are five primary reasons from what I can tell.
#1 – Geographical Location
A quick look at a world map will reveal the first reason why New Zealand is a great place to be during an apocalypse. The entire country is a few islands located well off the coast of Australia. Getting to New Zealand will not be easy after the world falls apart. Hungry masses won’t be able to walk across the ocean waters in hopes of raiding remote sheep stations on the island. It is – without question – remote.
#2 – The Landscape
Let’s start with the most obvious reason – the landscape. Google pictures of New Zealand yourself and you will see that the land is as rugged as it is beautiful. It is vast and open. It is a land that, if you needed to wait out a collapse, would make disappearing easy. It is a land that, if you needed a place to rebuild society anew, seems like a blank canvas. This landscape contributes to what many see as a natural utopia.
#3 – Access to Clean Water
Preppers know the importance of clean, potable water. In New Zealand, there are more than 4,000 lakes and 200 underground aquifers. The annual water flow is about 145 million litres per person. The water is used for hydroelectricity, irrigation, and municipal water. Water is abundant, clean, and potable.
#4 – Climate Change Safety
If you are wondering where to escape climate change, there is no place better than New Zealand. The country ranks first in the world by the Notre Dame vulnerability measure for climate change readiness. That ranking might imply that the country is preparing, but that’s not the case. New Zealand is ranked at the top because it’s already ready by the nature of its geographical location on the planet. The assessment also accounts for urbanization, reliance on imported foods, protection of ecosystems, and capacity of dams.
#5 – Social Stability
The final reason New Zealand is so attractive to billionaires is its political and social stability. It is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most stable democracies. Its citizens are well-cared for, its government has no corruption, and an economic system that plays a strong role in cooperation with the social system.
New Zealand has invested heavily in extensive infrastructure. He has strong transportation systems, telecommunication systems, and – importantly – energy self-sufficiency. The country is a well-run, low-risk place to live and invest. In turbulent times, New Zealand shines as an example of stability.
Uber-Rich New Zealand Doomsday Summary
Certainly not some place where I have the money to buy land, but for Silicon Valley billionaires with more money than they know what do do with, land in New Zealand makes for excellent “doomsday insurance.” When societal collapse inevitably happens, the ultra-rich will be targeted by angry mobs and desperate people. They will be harder targets to hit, however, if they are already on their private jets heading across the ocean to their remote bolt-hole as the rest of the world crumbles onto itself.
From their safe hiding spot in New Zealand, they will be well-situated to enjoy natural beauty, drink clean water, enjoy reliable energy sources, and wait for the rest of the world to sort itself out. Then they can emerge from their luxury bug out location with their grand plan to govern the new world.
At least, that seems to be their dream…