Matt Heath: New Zealand is open for the apocalypse

Publish Date
Monday, 10 September 2018, 9:39AM


New Zealand is being touted as the place to be in an apocalypse. Apparently, Silicon Valley billionaires have been shipping 150-tonne survival bunkers down here.

As scientist and silicon valley insider Jaron Lanier told Sam Harris last week: "People come up to me and say you have to go in with us we're getting this compound and when everything falls apart we're all going to New Zealand."

The general manager of the Texas-based bunker manufacturer Rising S Company Gary Lynch told Bloomberg: "New Zealand is an enemy of no-one. It's not a nuclear target. It's a place where people seek refuge."

Which is great for us we're already here. But what are the biggest threats to human civilisation? Maybe nukes, artificial intelligence, asteroids and disease pandemics?

Being an island nation we're not going to go great in a tsunami. Especially if something big from space plonks down in the Pacific Ocean. So let's concentrate on the other three.

So how good will New Zealand go in an apocalypse?

Nuclear war
I'd be surprised if there are any nukes pointed at us. Maybe at a stretch Wellington or Auckland. The apoca-migrational money has got to be on the bottom of the South Island. Do what PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel has done and get a place near Wanaka.

Even safer Stewart Island. Of course, a global nuclear war will lead to climate change, potential nuclear winters and a complete global financial meltdown. We won't be trading much with countries the that have been nuked. Which could get complex.

Having abandoned a lot of our manufacturing in favour of imports, a post-apocalyptic world would be low on hi-tech goods. You could kiss new smart TVs, cars, iPhones, BB-8s, petrol and Hollywood movies goodbye. Your Gmail and Netflix are probably going down too. So best bring a book. You might need a gun too, society is liable to break down no matter how far south you go.

Disease pandemic
New Zealand's isolation is a huge advantage in a pandemic. Fewer people getting infected simultaneously makes things easier to contain. That's if we work out what's going on early enough to shut our ports.

We do have a horrific history in this area. The influenza epidemic of 1918 terrifies me. In two months we lost half as many people as we had in the whole First World War. No event has killed as many New Zealanders in such a short time.

Some pointed the finger at Royal Mail liner Niagara which arrived in Auckland riddled with sick people two weeks before the second deadly virus attacked the city. Some believe the ship skipped quarantine because Prime Minister William Massey was on board and didn't want to go.

While it is probably not true it does highlight a problem. Not everyone will do what they should. Could we really close our borders completely?

What's to stop cruise ships and airliners full of desperate infected people from forcing their way down here?

What's to stop a cruise ship full of the infected crashing into the downtown ferry terminal? Unloading its snotty-nosed passengers to crawl up Queen St and flood the A&E in Grafton.

Would we send the army in? Shoot 'em? What if it's an aircraft carrier full of armed sickness refugees? What about private yachts?

We have a lot of coastline and not much navy. We might do better than Silicon Valley in a pandemic. But those guys plan to jump on private jets and scoot down here anyway.

They could be the ones the bring the sickness they're running from. So probably best once again to sit on the beach at Half Moon Bay with a book and a .22.

Artificial intelligence
In 2014 EIon Musk said: "We should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that".

Before he died Professor Stephen Hawking stated: "I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race."

That's not good. New Zealanders have long been early adopters of tech. EFTPOS being a classic example. We're all online. Kiwis love a gadget. I think New Zealanders will be as screwed when AI makes humans irrelevant as any place. Silicon Valley maybe the first against the wall when the robots take over. But we won't be long after.

It's flattering to hear so many rich Americans are looking to bolt to our beautiful country. I don't know how safe we really are down here. But in the meantime, while we work it out, I think it's important we take their money.

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission.