Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The rich have found a place to escape the horrors of the world - New Zealand

The rich have found a place to escape the horrors of the world - New Zealand

 Nov 06 2016

When Hong Kong-based financier Michael Nock wanted a place to escape in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, he looked beyond the traditional havens of the rich to a land at the edge of the world, where cows outnumber people two-to-one - New Zealand. 

Nock, the founder of hedge fund firm Doric Capital Corp, bought a retreat in picturesque Queenstown. In the seven years since, terror threats in Europe and political uncertainty from Britain to the US 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.

A snowy spring morning across the Wakatipu Basin.
A snowy spring morning across the Wakatipu Basin.

"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," Nock, 60, said by phone from Los Angeles during a recent business trip.

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The Other "Giverny" Nock's 5-acre estate is named "Giverny" after artist Claude Monet's iconic home and garden in northern France, and the "funny old farmhouse" is surrounded by ponds and mature plants, he said. Nock is converting a barn into an art studio on the property, which overlooks Queenstown's Shotover River - a fast-flowing, turquoise stretch of water that tourists speed down on jet boats and whitewater rafts.

The view of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains from Bennetts Bluff Lookout is among the most photographed in New Zealand.

The view of Lake Wakatipu and the mountains from Bennetts Bluff Lookout is among the most photographed in New Zealand.

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.

House prices in New Zealand increased 12.7 percent in the year through October, and the average price in largest city Auckland has almost doubled since 2007 to more than $1 million.

Chinese Retirees

Nock'€™s Giverny estate in Queenstown.

Nock's Giverny Estate in Queenstown.

Jack Ma, founder of e-retailing behemoth Alibaba Group Holding and China's richest man, told Prime Minister John Key in April that he'd like to buy a home in his country. At least 20 of Ma's 40-something colleagues have retired there, according to media reports.

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

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.

Queenstown - popular with the rich and famous.

Queenstown - popular with the rich and famous.

New Zealand received 998 registrations from UK 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.

Escaping Hell

"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."

Castlepoint, Wairarapa. The Wairarapa is a also a hot spot for visitors.
Castlepoint, Wairarapa. The Wairarapa is a also a hot spot for visitors.

Cooper has seen an increase in inquiries from US 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.

Kim Dotcom

"The world is heading into a major crisis," said Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom in an October 31. "I saw it coming and that's why we moved to New Zealand. Far away and not on any nuclear target list."

"Mt Ngauruhoe aka Mt Doom, in Tongariro National Park.

"Mt Ngauruhoe aka Mt Doom, in Tongariro National Park.

The German-born founder of was granted residency in 2010, but is now fighting attempts to extradite him to the US.

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 firm helped broker New Zealand's most expensive house sale in 2013, when a seven-bedroom mansion on the city's Paritai Drive was sold to a China-born businessman for $39 million.

"The world has got smaller," Wall said. "You can run multinational corporations from paradise now. So why wouldn't you?"

Fidelity National Financial chairman Bill Foley owns a luxury homestead in the Wairarapa region north of Wellington, and Robertson, chair of Tiger Management LLC in New York, owns two of the nation's most prestigious golf courses and a luxury lodge overlooking Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu. He says New Zealand is "the most beautiful place on Earth."

Billionaire Facebook Inc backer Peter Thiel described New Zealand as a "utopia" in 2011 and is reported to have bought residential property in Auckland and Queenstown. Thiel and a spokesman for the PayPal co-founder didn't respond to e-mailed requests for comment.

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 $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.

The desire for a haven nestled among snow-capped alps close to an international airport helped house prices in Queenstown increase at more than twice the pace of Auckland in the year through October, reaching an average of NZ$974,564.

Mark Harris, managing director of the town's Sotheby's Realty office, said he has sold properties for more than $20 million, including ones with private landing strips.

"We hedge fund people all love optionality," said Nock, the part-time Queenstown resident from Hong Kong. "Will I live in New Zealand permanently? I'm not sure, but I want the optionality of being able to do that."


Almost half of China's rich want to leave the country, Barclays says

Canada is among the most desirable destinations for wealthy Chinese citizens, investment bank Barclays said Monday.
A report out from venerable British bank Barclays released Monday said almost half of its rich clientele plan on leaving the country in the next five years, more than millionaires from any other country.

The investment bank published its annual review of its high-net worth individuals on Monday. It shows the world's wealthiest are becoming more mobile and worldly than ever.

More than 40 per cent of them have lived in more than one country — the first time since Barclays started keeping track that that's been the case. More than a fifth of them have lived in at least three countries.

"The wealthy are increasingly being motivated to move between countries in order to fulfill their international career aspirations, seize financial opportunities and ensure a better quality education for their children," Barclays said in the report, which polls more than 2,000 of the bank's customers around the world, each with a net worth of at least $1.5 million of investable assets.

The report also finds that some cities — notably  London, New York and Singapore — have become "wealth hotspots" to which the world's rich are increasingly drawn.

Canada a top destination

But the report also found that 47 per cent of the firm's wealthy Chinese customers said they planned on leaving the country permanently in the next five years. That was well ahead of rates seen in the U.S. and Japan, where six and seven per cent, respectively, said they were planning on leaving soon.

"The reality is that most ultra-high net worth individuals in China are probably making money in China right now. So, for business reasons, they need to be relatively close," said Liam Bailey, head of research at real estate consultancy Knight Frank.

"For business reasons, they need to be relatively close. That might prevent some of them going further afield," he said.

Canada is among the most desirable places they say they'd like to go. Among Chinese who were planning an exit, Canada was the second-most popular destination, favoured by 23 per cent of people. That figure was just behind the 30 per cent who said they planned to go to Hong Kong, and just ahead of the 21 per cent who said they planned to go live in the U.S.

Other regions with a disproportionately high percentage of rich people planning to leave include Latin America (where more than a third say they plan on leaving) and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where between a quarter and a third of people say they're going to get out.

Generally speaking, cities in North America and Europe are a top destination choice for the world's wealthiest — especially English-speaking locations like the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and then Singapore and Hong Kong.

"Whether the attraction is to do with the legal system, the English language or high quality professional services, the English-speaking world still dominates these patterns," Bailey said.

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