The Gates of Paradise are Closing.
New Zealand bans foreign house buyers.
New Zealand was disqualified from The Dweller’s Guide To The Planet on the basis of climate change threat. It was, admittedly, a marginal decision. It seems though, that if it survived the chapter on ‘angry gods’, it would not have made it through the next chapter, ‘Beggar Me’ – concerned with countries’ cost of living, and openness to new immigrants.
Until now, getting residency in New Zealand has always been quite a challenge. It works on a points system and you have to be under 56 years old to even apply. So, to take the UK as an example, New Zealand doesn’t want the 30% of people who are over 55. It’s difficult to think of any other persecuted minority that could be barred in this way, without civil disorder, but we’ll let that go. If you’re under 56 you’ll probably just squeak through on points if you have a degree, serious employment prospects, speak English and have been living there for five years.
Now, however, New Zealand has introduced a new law banning foreigners from buying houses. At first glance this makes sense. New Zealand has among the highest rates of homelessness in the developed world and foreign buyers made up to nearly 19% of house purchases in central Auckland last year, pushing up prices beyond the means of local buyers.
But this is not the whole story. What’s really going on is that very wealthy people from UK, Hong Kong, Australia and, increasingly since Donald Trump’s election, the USA are buying 2nd homes in New Zealand as protection against the apocalypse they now fear is coming to the rest of the world. Where better they figure, to ride out armageddon, than in the idyllic tranquility of Hobbiton.
If you are really keen on seeing out your last days with neighbours such as tech billionaire and PayPal founder Peter Thie, hedge-fund pioneer Julian Robertson and Matt Lauer, the former NBC host who lost his job after allegations of sexual misconduct, then you will still be able to buy new apartments in large developments and multi-storey blocks (no doubt at very inflated prices).
There are a few flaws in all this though. New Zealand’s ban on foreign house buyers won’t save New Zealand any more than New Zealand will save the tech billionaires buying houses there.
The new law prohibits billionaire foreigners from buying houses in new Zealand, not from renting them. Here, for instance, for a mere £11,500 per month, you could enjoy sea views of the apocalypse from your roof terrace. (The owners may even throw in an ‘end of the world’ discount).
New Zealand offers an ‘Investor Plus Visa’ for anyone who can invest 10 million NZ dollars over 3 years (around £5 million). Better yet, you only have to spend 44 days a year there to qualify – which is really handy if the end of the world only lasts 43 days and you’re keen to get back home afterwards.
The whole ‘I’m a billionaire. Get me out of here’ project only works if the end of the world takes the form of a nuclear war (and even then, Neville Shute’s ‘On the Beach’ might raise a couple of questions.) If, instead, it ends with a whimper rather than a bang, (or just as likely, a whimper after a bang) then New Zealand is unlikely to be a better place to survive than anywhere else. (See the entry in The Dweller’s Guide To The Planet’.) It’s true that people are still generally more worried about nuclear war than climate change but some presumably well informed people, like the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, do not agree. He called climate change, not war, “the most systemic threat to humankind.”
The problem for all you billionaires out there is that in the event of either, there is no ‘out of here’ to get you.
William Blake’s description of the ‘Gates of Paradise’ remains closer to the truth than any billionaire New Zealand bolt-hole plan:
Mutual forgiveness of each vice,
Such are the gates of paradise,
Mordor is how it will really look for all of us, including them.
If you think that one day the fountain pen may yet be mightier than the sword and for all you need to know about everywhere, read The Dweller’s Guide To The Planet