Billionaire Peter Thiel files plans to build luxury lodge on sprawling Wānaka lifestyle block

Billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel has filed plans to build a large complex on his sprawling 193-hectare lifestyle block just outside Wānaka. 

Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and Palantir, as well as an early investor in Facebook's now multi-billion-dollar social media empire, purchased the estate in April 2015 for a reported $13.5 million through his Auckland-headquartered company, Second Star Limited, co-owned with husband Matt Danzeisen.

A resource consent application, lodged with the Queenstown Lakes District Council, show plans for a series of curved buildings - including a larger luxury lodge and private residential home - built into the rural landscape at Damper Bay, situated near the shoreline of Lake Wānaka. Designed by Tokyo Olympic Stadium architect Kengo Kuma and Associates, the documents also show plans for a separate meditation pod, library, theatre lounge and spa rooms, with the infrastructure blending seamlessly into the picturesque countryside. The application is to be publicly notified.

"The lodge is designed in a manner that integrates the building forms into the context of the landscape and the site whilst providing each guest room with uninterrupted north-facing views towards Lake Wānaka and the Southern Alps," the resource consent application says.

"The lodge location provides the benefits of relative proximity to Wānaka and the shopping, dining and cultural experiences that are available, whilst also providing guests with a sense of remoteness."

According to the planning documents, the lodge would accommodate up to 24 guests in 10 rooms, and six in the "owner's" pod. A number of staff would be employed at the estate during peak times, but none would be provided on-site accommodation.

The proposal also outlines its intention to respect the surrounding nature, including the retention of native forest and the restoration of wetlands. 

It's currently unclear when the lodge will be operational or how much it would cost to stay here.

An artist's impression of luxury complex built into the rural landscape.
An artist's impression of luxury complex built into the rural landscape. Photo credit: Supplied

In 2017, it was revealed that Thiel had been granted New Zealand citizenship in 2011 after spending just 12 days in the country - with new citizens typically required to spend at least 1350 days out of a five-year period in order to be eligible.

However, the American billionaire's love affair with Aotearoa has been well-documented, with the entrepreneur first visiting the country in 1995 as a 28-year-old. 

Thiel is known to be a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which was filmed in New Zealand. The names of six of his firms, including Palantir Technologies, Valar Ventures and Mithril Capital, are inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's novels. He is reported as saying he has read The Lord of the Rings more than 10 times.

In an interview with Business Insider in 2011, Thiel likened New Zealand to a "utopia", and in his citizenship application, reportedly said no other country "aligns more with my view of the future".

An artist's impression of the location of the luxury lodge Peter Thiel is planning to build at Damper Bay, Wānaka.
An artist's impression of the location of the luxury lodge Peter Thiel is planning to build at Damper Bay, Wānaka. Photo credit: Supplied

Earlier this year, fellow tech billionaire and Google co-founder Larry Page was granted residency in New Zealand.

In 2016, Thiel, a conservative libertarian, backed business magnate Donald Trump's bid for presidency, donating $1.25 million to his campaign. After Trump's triumph, which saw him hold the presidency until losing to incumbent Joe Biden in last year's election, Thiel was appointed to his transition team.