Surge in rich gaining NZ residency

20:58, Sep 29 2013
James Cameron
LAND OF PLENTY: An aerial view of Hollywood director James Cameron's property in the Wairarapa.

Mega-rich people are flocking to New Zealand after immigration rules were relaxed for people with at least $10 million to spend.

The change in 2009 has led to a surge in seriously wealthy people gaining New Zealand residency and most don't need any business experience or English language expertise.

More than 100 people have been approved under the "investment plus" category, open exclusively to those investing $10 million in New Zealand, and dozens more are applying every year.

James Cameron
Director James Cameron.

Immigration New Zealand has even started headhunting multi-millionaires they have heard could be inclined to relocate here along with a sizeable investment.

Successful applicants have included Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and Hollywood director James Cameron.

The more modestly wealthy - those with $1.5 million to spend - are also applying in their hundreds through another category for smaller investors.

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Kim Dotcom
Mega founder Kim Dotcom.

But their smaller investment means they face more rigorous scrutiny, including proving they can speak English and have at least three years' business experience.

Immigration lawyer Simon Laurent said it was unclear what New Zealand was getting from lowering the bar for the super rich.

While they may need to invest money to get into New Zealand, after three years the new Kiwi residents did not have to keep it here.

"If these people get residency and after three years funnel off the money, we might get stuff all out of it," he said.

"There is a lot of cynicism about the benefits to New Zealand."

David Cooper, director of immigration consultancy Malcolm Pacific, said he had helped about a dozen people apply for the $10m residency package, including Kim Dotcom.

Most of them were from the United States or United Kingdom and often spent far more than $10 million.

The number of mega-rich moving to New Zealand had previously been a trickle but had steadily increased since the change, he said.

"From an economic point of view, we want these people to come here to contribute."

He defended the looser rules around language and experience for people able to invest more.

"If you are that wealthy, English will not be barrier."

Matt Hoskin, migrant attraction manager at Immigration New Zealand, said the mega-rich were already being approached by the New Zealand Government with offers of residency for investment.

Under the scheme, more than $770 million had been invested by new New Zealand residents, with another $480m approved but still awaiting confirmation.

Most people kept their money in New Zealand after the three years required to gain residency and often went on to spend more.

Americans were the biggest investors, followed by the Chinese, he said.

Most had visited before and had developed a fondness for New Zealand.

The Dominion Post