New Zealand’s best bombproof bach: Prepper’s paradise

“One abandoned village for sale, complete with eight houses” reads the headline “Perfect for the apocalypse.”

Since when did New Zealand become a paradise for “preppers” getting ready for the end of days?

New Zealand is full of amazing alternative holiday rentals. Recent years have seen off-grid living and sustainable technologies, such as photovoltaic cells and rainwater harvesting, transform Kiwi baches into bastions of self-sufficiency. According to the Ministry of Business and Employment, last year saw 4330 units or 68 acres of solar panelling installed on New Zealand roofs.

Yet with foreign-made blast-proof doors amongst some of the more exotic items imported by “home improvement enthusiasts”, it seems that some bach builders are more concerned with saving themselves than saving the planet.

Around the world, New Zealand has a special place in the hearts of fantasy fans, thanks to Sir Peter Jackson’s efforts in adapting JRR Tolkien’s novels for the big screen. But this new form of escapism is a bit bleaker than busloads of people with pointy ears off-loading in Matamata.

It seems the dark fantasies of a few high rollers have been playing out over Aotearoa with dire consequences – and they have one of New Zealand’s most beloved institutions in their sights: the humble holiday bach.

Since Herald journalist Matt Nippert’s exposé into Paypal founder Peter Thiel’s Queenstown doomsday bolthole, the idea captured the nation’s collective imagination.

Now New Zealand has been put on the map as a fantasy escape for billionaires who have seen one too many b-movies.

It turns out that international high-flyers were buying up patches of rural New Zealand for years, all with the simple reasoning of “just in case”.

Back in 2012, Hollywood director James Cameron famously bought a cattle ranch getaway in the Wairarapa. Surely the man who made the Terminator films isn’t confusing his own fiction with fact?

When the sale of the small village in North Otago went on the market two years ago, it was picked up by newspapers around the world including the Guardian, the South China Morning Post and the New York Times.

While the size and price ($2.8m) of the lot are large, the rest of Lake Waitaki Village is beautiful but otherwise unremarkable. Since the nearby dam was automated at the end of the 1980s, it has been empty.

While no buyer has been found just yet, the estate agent managing the property has had “heaps of interest” from international buyers.

While the uses range from a holiday camp to communes, the Daily Mail suggested it would be “perfect for the apocalypse”.

Even as property regulations tighten on the sale of land to non-residents, speculative d-day holiday boltholes are still a booming business.

A Bloomberg report found the Rising S Company, which specialises in “bunkers and bomb shelters built to last”, has shipped over $8million worth of Texan steel shelters to New Zealand.

While the company is highly secretive of the locations these two bomb-proof baches ended up, it was confirmed that one was shipped via Auckland to some picturesque location in Northland, while the other arrived in Picton destined for a sleepy West Coast town.

Gary Lynch, the general manager of the company, can see the country’s appeal, but his reasoning is far from the usual Pure NZ spiel.

“New Zealand is an enemy of no one,” he told Bloomberg‘s Olivia Carville. “It’s not a nuclear target. It’s not a target for war. It’s a place where people seek refuge.”

However, off-grid living needs not be the product of paranoia.

Instead of a last ditch effort to escape some world-ending calamity, we ought to be looking at how off-grid homes might help us combat some of the biggest environmental threats to the planet.

Some of New Zealand’s most forward-thinking sustainable baches are about saving the world – not fleeing its fiery demise.

Here are a few of our favourites:

The Landing, Bay of Islands

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