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Buying a house in New Zealand is Silicon Valley code for getting 'apocalypse insurance'

Sheep new zealandShutterstock

New Zealand, home of rolling hillsides, endless sheep, and film locations for “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy, has racked up a new claim to fame.

Silicon Valley billionaires are reportedly buying property on the small island nation so that they have somewhere to flee in the event of a global catastrophe. “Buying a house in New Zealand” has become a sort of code for getting “apocalypse insurance.”

A new essay in The New Yorker digs into the ways some of the wealthiest people in America are preparing for doomsday. Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a notable venture capitalist, told the New Yorker he estimates more than 50% of Silicon Valley billionaires have bought some level of apocalypse insurance, like an underground bunker.

Hoffman recalled a time when he thought about visiting New Zealand, and a friend asked him if he planned to buy apocalypse insurance while he was there.

“Saying you’re ‘buying a house in New Zealand’ is kind of a wink, wink, say no more,” Hoffman told The New Yorker. “Once you’ve done the Masonic handshake, they will be, like, ‘Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old ICBM silos, and they’re nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in.'”

Peter thiel new zealandShutterstock and Neilson Barnard/GettyPeter Thiel.

Peter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and a member of President Donald Trump’s transition team, became a New Zealand citizen in 2011 and owns real estate there. According to The New Zealand Herald, Thiel bought a mansion in the southern resort town of Queenstown in 2011 and a sprawling estate on the shores of Lake Wanaka — valued around $10 million — in 2015.

A real estate listing described the 477-acre property as “a most beautiful and picturesque farm,” offering “a secluded and peaceful setting.” It sounds like a nice place to wait out Armageddon, though the venture capitalist has yet to expressly name New Zealand his “backup country.”

Y Combinator president Sam Altman allegedly wants to fly to Thiel’s property in the case of a pandemic.

Tech billionaires are channeling their inner Bear Grylls for a number of reasons. Hoffman told The New Yorker that some rich people fear a backlash against Silicon Valley as artificial intelligence takes away an increasing number of jobs from humans. The CEO of a large tech company cited Russian cyberattacks as evidence of risk that the US might fall into disorder.

In response to all of this, Recode’s Kara Swisher shared a joke she heard from a techie.

“In the event of doomsday, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is I have a bunker in New Zealand. The bad news? Peter Thiel is my neighbour,” Swisher wrote.

NOW WATCH: These doomsday shelters for the 1% make up the largest private bunker community on earth

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