Rich refuge in New Zealand

Bloomberg reports that The Mega Rich Have Found an Unlikely New Refuge and “New Zealand’s isolation is a virtue amid terror, U.S. election”.

In the seven years since, terror threats in Europe and political uncertainty from Britain to the U.S. 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,” (Hong Kong-based financier Michael) Nock said by phone from Los Angeles during a recent business trip.

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 NZ$250 billion ($180 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 Plc. in September.

Safe from terrorism and territorial wars, and good for business.

Key, a former currency trader, once described New Zealand as “England without the attitude.”

I don’t see New Zealand as being anything like England – but I’ve only seen England from a long distance.

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.

Brexit has prompted a surge in interest in the far side of the planet, a long way from the worst of the world’s problems.

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 U.K. 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.

“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.”

And the perceived threats to the US by terrorism, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have worried some Americans.

Cooper has seen an uptick in inquiries from U.S. 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.

And that’s before either Clinton or trump take over the White House.

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 Ltd.

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

To an extent this is true. Most of my work yesterday was virtually in Cape Town, and on Wednesday I worked in Perth, remotely.

New Zealand has actively courted the wealthy. For an investment of NZ$10 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 NZ$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.

Some may not like money buying privileged refuge here, but it can be good for both business and tourism.

I am very happy to be living in one of the safest places in the world (natural disasters aside perhaps). And it has plenty of fantastic regions withi relatively short distances.