The former FBI director James Comey has joked – or not – that he will move to New Zealand if Donald Trump is re-elected in 2020.
Comey was interviewed on C-Span and asked what he would do if Trump was returned to office. “From my new home in New Zealand, I still will believe in America,” Comey said, to laughter from the audience.
The former FBI boss worked for the Obama administration and was fired by Trump in May 2017, fuelling concerns for the bureau’s investigation into links between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. The comment was apparently made in jest but he joins a long line of prominent Americans to float the idea of emigrating to New Zealand as a way to escape Trump’s chaotic presidency.
Relocating to the nation has become something of an obsession for Silicon Valley billionaires and preppers who fear the apocalypse is looming. Immigration to the country hit a record high in mid-2017 with many seeing the politically stable country as a refuge from the likes of Brexit and a divided America.
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In 2016 the supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told the New York Times “Now it’s time for us to move to New Zealand” if Trump was elected. One week after Trump’s inauguration the New Yorker ran a piece that referred to New Zealand as a “favoured refuge in the event of a cataclysm” for the super-rich.
After the Trump election and Brexit referendum the Immigration New Zealand website experienced unprecedented traffic. Typically the site receives 3,000 registrations a month from British nationals interested in moving to, working or investing in New Zealand. On the day of the Brexit referendum the website received 998 registrations from Britons, compared with 109 at the same time the year before.
High-profile Americans who have bought property and sometimes live in New Zealand include the PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and the disgraced NBC host Matt Lauer.
Professor John Morgan, a British expat and academic at the University of Auckland, said there was an ingrained idea in the northern hemisphere that New Zealand was an undisturbed haven from the modern world. “There is this pervading idea that New Zealand is some sort of relic of 1950s Britain, a place to escape, a place to go back in time. That is not true, but it is generally true that New Zealand does avoid the worst trappings of modern, consumerist culture. There is a rush hour – but it is just an hour.”