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.
Nock, the founder of hedge fund firm Doric Capital Corp., bought a retreat 9,335 km away in New Zealand’s picturesque Queenstown. In the seven years since, terror threats in Europe and political uncertainty from Britain to the U.S. 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.
“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.
The Other “Giverny”
Nock’s 2-hectare 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.
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 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.