New Zealand, which boasts one of the world’s most effective responses to the Covid-19 pandemic to date, has attracted super-rich survivalists in recent years, with Silicon Valley billionaires buying up remote acres and applying for citizenship.
Now an entire New Zealand town, modelled on the American Old West, is up for sale. And the fact that its purchase would bring with it the right to apply for a sought-after Investor 1 Residency visa has grabbed attention around the world.
Mellonsfolly Ranch is a replica US frontier town set on more than 900 acres of the Central Plateau on the North Island, surrounded by national park land.
It was built “for fun” in 2006 by a New Zealand businessman and Wild West enthusiast who modelled it on an 1860s town in Wyoming and called it his folly — hence the name.
The town has 10 Western-style buildings including two saloons, a courthouse and a bank. Authentic touches range from the sign hanging outside Miss Nancy Ann’s Hotel, reading “Single rooms for single girls. No men allowed”, to the Wyoming flag hanging outside the courthouse.
Most of the buildings boast front porches, perfect for perching in a rocking chair and gazing out at the spectacular surrounding volcanic landscape.
Mellonsfolly was sold in 2012 to an entrepreneur who has used it as a luxurious destination for weddings, family get-togethers and corporate events, as well as a boutique hotel. There is also a profitable 450-hive Manuka honey business currently running on the native bush that surrounds the town.
There are 20 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms on the site providing overnight accommodation for 22 guests, who can enjoy the licensed saloon, billiards and a cinema in the courthouse building.
Hunting, fishing and river swimming are all on hand in summer, while for winter sport, the ski town of Okahune and the Mount Ruapehu ski fields are nearby.
The property is on the market for £6.11 million (NZ $11.7 million), which would enable the purchaser to apply for an Investor 1 visa, granting residency to those with NZ $10 million to invest in the country over a three-year period.
Because the ranch is run as a business, foreign buyers could also circumvent rules introduced by prime minister Jacinda Ardern in 2018 banning them from purchasing existing property in New Zealand, in a bid to ease the country’s housing bubble.
Strict quarantine rules mean overseas buyers will be unable to view Mellonsfolly Ranch in person. However, New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty, which is marketing the property, reports significant foreign interest, in particular from Hong Kong and the United States.
Unlike the US, where the pandemic is experiencing a second wave in several states, New Zealand successfully stamped out coronavirus following a swift and decisive lockdown – though a 24-day run with no new cases ended in mid-June when two women arrived from the UK to visit a dying relative and tested positive for the disease.
New Zealand has held a longer-term attraction for foreign investors drawn to its remote location in the Pacific, with PayPal founder Peter Thiel the most famous tech billionaire to be granted residency.
“We are privileged to be asked to bring this bespoke property to the market. This is unique – even on the global stage,” said Glen Jones at New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Wellington.