Paving the way: AWS Legal's Chantal Ryan and Scott Donaldson, who're liaising with increasing numbers of high-net-worth overseas residents wanting to move to Queenstown on investor visas


The global one per cent is eyeing up Queenstown, looking to invest up to $10 million to secure New Zealand residency and help strengthen the Wakatipu’s economy.

AWS Legal senior associate Scott Donaldson and solicitor Chantal Ryan say post-Covid-19 they’re seeing a “discernible increase” in inquiries from wealthy overseas residents – particularly from North America, Hong Kong, Singapore and China – looking to make the move to the Wakatipu on investor visas.

There are two types of such visas – investor one, where a migrant’s got to invest $10m into some NZ investment, most typically bonds, keep it here for three years, and live here for 44 days a year during the second and third years in return for permanent residency.

The second is a $3m investment, but it comes with more requirements, including residing in NZ for 146 days a year in years two, three and four.

Donaldson: “A lot of people that come to NZ, that are wealthy, are coming here because they want to create a bolthole in case the world collapses.

“And, right now, it looks like the world is not as robust as it was six months ago, hence a lot of people are surveying their options, looking for ways of protecting their family and their assets.

“The other side of that is that NZ is in the news a lot, especially in North America, and it’s kind of seen as this safe place, partly because it is … but there’s some pull factors and there are also some push factors, especially from the US where there’s a lot of concern, I suppose, about the domestic situation.”

But, the pair say, the foreign buyer ban’s “a real barrier” for investors wanting to move here.

“They want to buy a house and live in it, even if it’s only for two months a year.

“It [the ban] is not a very welcoming thing to do and, also, the sort of people that we want to be attracting, yes, they’re buying land that New Zealanders might buy, but also they’re creating jobs for people at that really high end of construction, which is really what we want – especially now.”

Donaldson says the major benefit to Queenstown is investor visa recipients often run part of their businesses from here, and employ people locally.

“We’ve got some clients who have set up a branch of their business in Queenstown and they’re creating really good opportunities for people and connecting to North American markets, Hong Kong, Singapore.

“I think one of the good things about coronavirus is working remotely is much more accepted – if we can get these people to run their businesses in Queenstown and then have NZers employed remotely, then that’s going to be a big piece of diversifying Queenstown.

“If you’re wanting to fund community projects and things, somebody who can write a cheque for $100,000 … that’s quite a few sausage sizzles,” he says.