This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Stand on a random hill in Queenstown, New Zealand and you can see a beautiful landscape dotted with million dollar homes. Many of those luxury mansions are empty. The owners are the powerful and the wealthy, mostly foreigners, who come to New Zealand to build island retreats and, possibly, doomsday bunkers to ride out the apocalypse. In the new documentary Hunt for the Bunker People, VICE’s Baz Macdonald goes looking for the bunkers of the rich and powerful.
New Zealand is a gorgeous island country of less than 5 million people. Its mountains, oceans and beaches give it a mystic air. Its remote location and small government make it attractive to the global elite looking for an island getaway. In the past ten years, the powerful and wealthy have flocked to New Zealand. Reclusive billionaire Peter Thiel famously gained New Zealand citizenship after just 12 days in the country. The country has supposedly become home to doomsday bunkers for some of the world’s richest people – especially Silicon Valley’s new class of billionaires.
Macdonald’s journey starts with a call to Rising S, a manufacturer of luxury bunkers located in east Texas. According to Rising S, it has constructed 38 doomsday bunkers in New Zealand. From there, Macdonald heads to Queenstown – a small town whose local airport routinely runs out of space for private jets – to hunt for the homes of the rich and reclusive.
It’s not just a story about how the wealthy prep for the end of the world, but those they’d leave behind. New Zealand's population is small and full of people who can’t afford to ride out the apocalypse in fully furnished underground dwellings.
“It’s interesting that people come here thinking about the end of the world while the people who live here are thinking about just getting through the rest of the week,” Macdonald said.