The government of New Zealand confirmed on Thursday that Google co-founder Larry Page, the sixth wealthiest person in the world, has obtained residency in New Zealand, according to a report from the news outlet Stuff. And with that, Page joins a growing list of super-wealthy Americans who are secretly buying residency status in New Zealand, a kind of insurance policy for doomsday.
New Zealand’s borders have been tightly controlled since the start of the covid-19 pandemic and reporters started asking questions when word got out that Page, an American, might be in Auckland. New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs did not respond to a request for comment overnight.
Page applied for a special visa on Nov. 3, 2020 and first flew into the country on Jan. 11, 2021 after his child became ill in Fiji, according to Stuff. Page’s residency visa is known as the Investor Plus, which allows anyone into the country provided they have at least $10 million to invest. The visa wasn’t approved until Feb 4, 2021, after Page entered the country.
The 48-year-old Page and his sick child were reportedly airlifted from Fiji to New Zealand’s Starship children’s hospital using a New Zealand-based air ambulance, but government officials have refused to say whether Page paid for the flight himself, citing medical privacy concerns. It’s not clear what illness Page’s child is suffering from, but Page probably isn’t in the country right now, according to Stuff, and it’s unclear where he might be at the moment.
Curiously, the New Zealand government denied to Stuff that Page was a resident of the country earlier this week, but eventually the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment admitted that had recently received his special visa.
Page reportedly spent time in quarantine once he arrived in New Zealand, as everyone who enters is required to do, but the details around his accommodations haven’t been released. It’s not clear, for example, whether Page was allowed to see his sick child in person during that time.
New Zealand, a country of just 5 million people, has seen 2,880 cases of covid-19 since the start of the pandemic and 26 deaths, one of the lowest rates of infection and death in the world. The country is essentially operating like covid-19 never happened and New Zealanders are understandably touchy about rich people buying their way into the country during a plague.
Page, worth an estimated $121 billion, is just the latest tech billionaire to be revealed as having secret residency or citizenship in the island nation, which has been attracting wealthy westerners who see it as a place to flee if society truly collapses from climate change, rampant disease, “pitchforks” for the rich, or any other host of problems.
Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, was revealed in 2017 to have been granted New Zealand citizenship after locals questioned why he was allowed to own a house on protected land. Thiel, a close ally of former president Donald Trump and his “America First” agenda, apparently took the oath of citizenship for New Zealand in Santa Monica, California.
New Zealand was recently determined to be the best place to ride out the apocalypse, thanks to its relatively small population, renewable energy, and abundant fresh water supply. The new study from the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University also included spots like Australia, the UK, and Ireland, but New Zealand topped the list.
The New Yorker reported in 2017 about the flood of people, especially rich Americans and Europeans, who are getting a foothold in New Zealand as their insurance policy against collapse. And it’s basically an open secret among the wealthy that we don’t have much time left for any kind of “normalcy” here on planet Earth.
“Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more,” Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, told the New Yorker back in 2017.
Where is Page going to spend his $10 million in New Zealand, something that needs to happen within the next three years under the Investor Plus visa? The rumors are that he’s interested in air taxis.
From New Zealand’s Stuff:
Page is understood to have an interest in Wisk Aviation, which has developed an electric, autonomous aircraft intended for use as an air taxi. The company has its headquarters in the US but has a presence in New Zealand and will trial aircraft here.
A Wisk spokeswoman refused to comment on its investors.
Page’s interest in the company arises from Kitty Hawk, the aviation company he backs. Wisk, formerly called Zephyr, is a joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk.
It has had a presence in New Zealand since 2016.
While New Zealand’s citizenship office didn’t respond to our email, the agency notes on its website that processing applications is taking longer than usual. Probably because so many tech billionaires are knocking on the door to get in.