Controversial American billionaire and Trump donor Peter Thiel’s New Zealand citizenship and purchase of a Wanaka lakefront estate for more than $13 million has lifted the lid on an area becoming a new playground for the super-wealthy. Thiel, who is thought to be worth about $2.7 billion, is not the only foreigner making a base in one of the world’s most picturesque spots — and there are signs more are on the way.

When US billionaire Peter Thiel visits his new $13.5 million lifestyle block in Wanaka, he will soon have a new neighbour from his homeland.

It was recently revealed that PayPal co-founder and Trump adviser -Thiel controversially gained New Zealand citizenship, allowing him to buy sensitive land close to the millionaires' playground of -Queenstown without overseas -investment office approval.

Last month a high country station with an estimated capital value of $13.2m on the shore of nearby Lake Hawea was also snapped up by a wealthy American. On Friday, it emerged the buyer was NBC journalist Matt Lauer, who has hosted the Today Show since 1997.

Lauer, 59, is one of the highest paid news anchors in the world and commands a salary of $28m-$35m, the Los Angeles Times reported.


Stretching 35km along the shore of Lake Hawea into the Hunter Valley and surrounded by mountains and native bush, the station has been described as one of the most picturesque in New Zealand.

The whole area is a jewel in New Zealand's crown. The parts of it owned by the super-wealthy are dubbed "millionaires' row" by locals. That is rapidly becoming billionaires' row.

Last week, Forbes magazine published a story extolling the virtues of our country as a bolthole for the wealthy - the latest in a seemingly endless series of stories from the US promoting New Zealand.

It was headlined: Tempted to Move Out of the US? New Zealand Wants to Help You Escape and described "an incubation nation" - a place where innovation thrives and people can make a real change and have an impact.

The latest property data from Land Information New Zealand (Linz) shows that in October to December last year, 2 per cent of property transfers involved overseas tax resident buyers and 3 per cent involved overseas tax resident sellers.

"We saw a slight drop in the number of overseas tax resident buyers," Linz chief executive Russell Turner said.

"They were involved in 2 per cent of transfers in October to December, compared to the 3 per cent we saw in the first three quarters of December."

But if the number of overseas people buying in New Zealand has taken a small dip, no one has told Queenstown.


Last year it emerged almost 9 per cent of Queenstown ratepayers supplied an overseas address as their main point of contact for payment of rates.

The actual level of overseas ownership could be much higher because many overseas owners use a local agent, trust or lawyer to pay their rates. The local agent's address would then appear on the council's database.

Property prices are also soaring in the region promoted as the "adventure capital of the world".

The QV House Price Index in December showed Queenstown's residential values have hit a new $1m average, up 32.2 per cent in the past year, three times Auckland's annual value rise.

Queenstown real estate expert Terry Spice doesn't see the market slowing any time soon. His Luxury Real Estate New Zealand firm has $50m worth of property in the region under contract or sold within the past six weeks.

The luxury 'Jagged Edge' home near Queenstown. Photo / Supplied
The luxury 'Jagged Edge' home near Queenstown. Photo / Supplied

"The high-end activity in the area is very strong," he says.

"There are people who want to create a bolt-hole in the southern hemisphere away from some of the problems facing the Western world.

"The people we are dealing with are not doomsdayers or nutters with conspiracy theories, this is just people reacting to the real threats that are out there."

Along from Thiel's place, in Glendhu Bay, is the $21.5m Motatapu Station, for many years the high country retreat of Canadian pop star Shania Twain. It is still owned by her ex-husband, South African record producer Robert "Mutt" Lange.

This is a spectacular stretch of New Zealand that has become like a road journey through the property portfolios of the elite, many from overseas.

Just over the Crown Range another high-profile local resident, Hong Kong-based hedge-fund manager Michael Nock, owns a multimillion-dollar bolthole overlooking Lake Hayes.

And Tony Malkin - part-owner of New York's Empire State Building - has a $30m environmentally cutting-edge project under way at his 49ha spread in the "golden triangle" of Dalefield.

The real estate syndicator has built a two-storey manager's residence, the Barn House, near his Littles Rd entranceway, a 1.5km walking/cycle track, at the base of the cliffs, - which will be vested in the Queenstown Trails Trust - and has planted thousands of native plants.

But it is not just overseas buyers who can afford the region's most envied homes. Along from Thiel's place, on the flanks of Mt Alpha, is the $25m Hillend Station, home to Trade Me founder Sam Morgan.

And the $10m-build Jagged Edge, suspended high above the waters of Lake Wakatipu, is quite simply breathtaking.

Designed by an Austrian architect, the three-bedroom house is partly owned by Wellington businessman Julian McPike, and is available for rent from an eye-watering $5000 a night.

Kiwi actor Sam Neill also has a spread at Dalefield, where another high-profile neighbourhood face is A.J. Hackett founding partner, bungy pioneer Henry van Asch.
Rich-lister and philanthropist

Sir Eon Edgar is another New Zealander who has a stunning lakeside super-home, in exclusive Queenstown suburb Kelvin Heights.

Mahu Whenua - estimated value $70.8m

Mahu Whenua Ridgeline Eco-lodge. Photo / Sourced via
Mahu Whenua Ridgeline Eco-lodge. Photo / Sourced via

A Queenstown eco-lodge owned by South African-born songwriter and record producer Robert "Mutt" Lange is among the most expensive in New Zealand at $15,500 a night.

Mahu Whenua Ridgeline and Eco Sanctuary will offer rooms for 12 people, plus four-wheel drive tours, horse trekking, farm tours and yoga.

Lange acquired sole ownership of several high country properties he now calls Mahu Whenua after his 2008 divorce from Canadian singer Shania Twain.

They included Motatapu Station, Mt Soho, Glencoe and Coronet Peak. In 2015 the land was valued in the accounts of Lange's company Soho Property at $31.5m, with improvements to property and buildings adding a further $39.3m.

Hunter Valley Station - estimated CV, $13.2m

Hunter Valley Station. Photo / Supplied
Hunter Valley Station. Photo / Supplied

The "mystery" American buyer of a high country station on the shore of Lake Hawea is NBC journalist Matt Lauer.

In early February, he was granted consent by the Overseas Investment Office to buy the 6468ha Hunter Valley Station.

Properties on the station include a five-bedroom homestead, cottage and shearers' quarters.

The station has been described as one of the most picturesque in New Zealand, and has been leased by the Crown to the local Cochrane family for more than 40 years.

In the OIO decision's summary, the buyer is listed as being 100 per cent American. Orange Lakes (NZ) Ltd is listed as the consent holder in the purchase.

Matakauri Lodge - believed to have cost $12m in 2009

Matakauri Lodge on Lake Wakatipu. Photo / Supplied
Matakauri Lodge on Lake Wakatipu. Photo / Supplied

American billionaire Julian Robertson is renowned on Wall Street for being a pioneer in the hedge-fund industry and a philanthropist who is giving much of his fortune away to causes in New York and elsewhere.

Matakauri Lodge, near Queenstown, is both more intimate - with only 11 rooms around a compact main lodge on 6ha - than his other prestige New Zealand properties, which include Kauri Cliffs Lodge near Kerikeri and Cape Kidnappers at Hawke's Bay.

In May 2015, Roberston's fortune was estimated by Forbes at $3.4b.

Blanket Bay - estimated to be worth up to $50m

Blanket Bay Lodge, Glenorchy. Photo / Supplied
Blanket Bay Lodge, Glenorchy. Photo / Supplied

Nestled beside snowcapped mountain peaks on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Blanket Bay Lodge is in one of New Zealand's most spectacular locations.

When Blanket Bay opened its doors in December 1999, it began a new chapter in the history of luxury lodges in New Zealand.

It is believed American businessman and former Levi Strauss president Tom Tusher bought the land in 1974 for just $21,000.

It has been reported that when he retired from Levi Strauss in 1996 he walked away with a package worth about $100m.

Blanket Bay has hosted the likes of Hollywood actor Robin Williams and English actor Sir Ian McKellen, who called it "possibly the best in the world".

Damper Bay farm estate - $13.5m

Damper Bay, Lake Wanaka. Photo / Supplied
Damper Bay, Lake Wanaka. Photo / Supplied

Peter Thiel has bought this 193ha lifestyle block near Wanaka.

The German-born, US-based entrepreneur bought the property just outside Wanaka through his company Second Star Limited in April 2015 for $13.5m, according to property records.

A spokeswoman for the Overseas Investment Office said the purchase did not need to follow rules for the sale of sensitive land to foreign buyers as PayPal co-founder Thiel was a New Zealand citizen. Forbes estimated last year that Thiel was worth $3.7b.

Thiel's address is listed on the Companies Office website as being in San Francisco, California.