Google co-founder Larry Page is a New Zealand resident, government says

Billionaire’s status was confirmed after report he had been granted entry to New Zealand during the pandemic despite closed borders

Billionaire and Google co-founder Larry Page is a New Zealand resident, and visited the country in the midst of Covid-19 border restrictions.

The government confirmed Page’s residency after New Zealand outlet Stuff broke the story on Thursday that Page had been in the country earlier this year, accompanying his child who fell ill in Fiji.

Page, who is the sixth-richest man in the world, was granted entry into the country despite New Zealand borders remaining closed to most travellers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Residency alone would not grant Page access to New Zealand during Covid-19 border restrictions – the case was assessed as a health emergency, and a medical evacuation was approved.

So far, there is little detail about how or when Page was granted residency. In a statement, Nicola Hogg, general manager border and visa operations “Immigration New Zealand (INZ) can confirm Larry Page met relevant requirements to be approved entry to New Zealand.”

Last month, researchers designated the country the “best place to survive global societal collapse,” citing its ability to protect borders and grow food for the population, temperate climate and low population density. Those attributes have made it a favoured destination for global elites hoping to buy boltholes or bunkers in preparation for a social or environmental apocalypse.

Billionaires acquiring residency or citizenship in New Zealand have been subject to political controversy in the past. In 2017, news broke that Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, was granted citizenship despite spending only 12 days in the country.

Politicians discussed Page’s residency in parliament’s question time on Thursday, with health minister Andrew Little saying the ministry had received a medevac request in January. He said that New Zealand conducted about 100 medevacs in any given year, and that “I’m advised all of the normal steps occurred in this case.”

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern was also asked by reporters about Page’s presence in New Zealand, and said she had not been briefed on his visit. Ardern said the call was made by clinical staff, and should not be made by politicians. “With all [medevac] cases, those are decisions for clinicians, and I absolutely trust our clinicians to make decisions”.

According to Immigration NZ, to be eligible for residence status in New Zealand via employment, most applicants must have been in New Zealand on a work to residence visa for two years, and meet health and character requirements.

Page may also have been eligible for a resident investor visa, which requires applicants to have $10m to invest in New Zealand over a three-year period. In its information for investor visas, Immigration NZ said: “If you’re granted residence you can come to New Zealand with your family and enjoy our unique lifestyle.”


Tess McClure in Christchurch

The GuardianTramp

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