The New Yorker has published a fascinating article about Silicon Valley tech titans who are buying up property in New Zealand as they prepare for the apocalypse. The super rich are worried about the poor grabbing “pitchforks” to overthrow the wealthy, and it turns out these elites aren’t just buying homes. Some, like Peter Thiel, are even getting citizenship.
Today, The New Zealand Herald is reporting that Peter Thiel has citizenship in New Zealand, a fact previously unknown to most in Silicon Valley. The revelation only came after the newspaper started to investigate a 477-acre property that Thiel had purchased in the country in 2015. The newspaper had inquired about why Thiel hadn’t gotten official approval to buy the property under foreign ownership laws. The paper was told that Thiel didn’t need it because he was a citizen.
Thiel, a billionaire who currently serves on President Donald Trump’s transition team, isn’t the only mega rich businessperson staking out a claim in New Zealand. According to The New Zealand Herald, people from outside the country bought up roughly 1,350 square miles of New Zealand property in the first ten months of 2016. The paper says that’s over four times as much as the same period in 2010.
“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.
Some of those setting up apocalypse homes in New Zealand have genuine concerns that a Donald Trump presidency will destroy the United States in some fashion. This, of course, is a bit ironic given Thiel’s own role in the new administration. It should probably be noted that Thiel helped bankrupt Gizmodo’s former parent company, Gawker Media, by funding a series of lawsuits aimed at destroying the company.
“What’s the percentage chance that Trump is actually a fascist dictator? Maybe it’s low, but the expected value of having an escape hatch is pretty high,” The New Yorker article quotes one ultra wealthy prepper as saying.
But New Zealand isn’t the only place where the mega rich are setting up shop for life and leisure. Steve Wozniak gained residency in nearby Australia in 2014. His wife is Australian, and he’s said that he likes the idea of being able to “die an Australian.” That’s perhaps more innocuous than the goals of the many anonymous Silicon Valley titans buying up property in New Zealand for armageddon, but it’s still a nice way to straddle the Pacific in relative safety.
And this wave to the South Pacific is unlikely to stop, for both the wealthy and the common person alike. In the week following President Trump’s election, a whopping 13,401 Americans applied for residency in New Zealand—a full 17 times the normal rate, according to The New Yorker.
Gizmodo has reached out to representatives of Mr. Thiel to seek confirmation of Thiel’s citizenship in New Zealand and ask about any other countries in which he may have citizenship.
Update, January 25th, 5:40am: The New Zealand Herald is now reporting that Peter Thiel gained citizenship in 2011. As the newspaper notes, no one can quite figure out how he gained citizenship, as the requirements usually demand living in the country for at least five years. The New Zealand government is now officially looking into how he gained citizenship.
“As Minister I tended to follow the advice of [Department of Internal Affairs] officials on these issues; I’m advised officials recommended granting citizenship in this particular case,” Minister Nathan Guy, who oversaw citizenship manners in 2011, told the New Zealand Herald.
Thiel has still not responded to Gizmodo’s request for comment and has also declined to comment on the case to the New York Times.
“It just seems very, very unlikely that Mr. Thiel lived in New Zealand for the majority of his time for the five years preceding 2011 and went unnoticed,” Iain Lees-Galloway, a spokesman for New Zealand’s Labour Party told The Times. “We’re a small country, he’s a very wealthy man, he’s a man who is prominent in the business world. I think he would have stood out in New Zealand.”