Coronavirus: Interest in underground bunkers in New Zealand surges as America's wealthy elite eager to escape COVID-ravaged US

There's been a surge in interest in underground bunkers in New Zealand from America's wealthy elite amid the coronavirus crisis, according to an overseas report.

As the US records an alarming 750,000 cases and 40,000 deaths, it's prompted rich-listers to look further afield to protect themselves and their families.

One of the places they've been looking at is New Zealand, reports Bloomberg News, which has long been an attractive proposition for doomsday preppers due to its isolation from the rest of the world.

Add to that our comparatively successful response to COVID-19 - less than 1500 cases, and a death rate per capita one 50th the size of America's - and it's perhaps no wonder Aotearoa has become such an attractive proposition to the richest in the US.

Survival shelter manufacturers told Bloomberg they've been fielding many more calls than normal from their wealthy clientele, asking about the feasibility of installing shelters in New Zealand.

Texas firm Rising S Co was contacted by one of its clients in early March, after he arrived in the South Island to access his underground bunker only to discover he had no idea how to access it.

"He went out to New Zealand to escape everything that's happening," general manager Gary Lynch said, "and as far as I know, he's still there."

Fellow shelter manufacturer Vivos has already installed a 300-person bunker in the South Island, and founder Robert Vicino told Bloomberg he's had two more calls in the past week for new shelters..

Rising S Co has installed about 10 bunkers in New Zealand in recent years, at an average cost of about US$3 million ($5 million). That number can easily rise to US$8 million (NZ$13.3 million), Bloomberg reports, if clients want "luxury bathrooms, game rooms, shooting ranges, gyms, theaters and surgical beds".

Bloomberg reports that many Silicon Valley A-listers started moving to New Zealand from last month, whether they had a bunker or not.

Cryptocurrency tycoon Mihai Dinulescu moved here with his wife in mid-March, after fearing his chance to move here would be scuppered by closed borders. His hunch proved to be correct, with New Zealand's borders closing to non-residents just four days later.

He is now renting a property on Auckland's affluent Waiheke Island, and has connected with about 10 other foreign rich-listers since arriving here.

New Zealand has long been a popular destination for moneyed Americans. Among those to set up homes in Aotearoa are PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, investor Julian Robertson, Hollywood film director James Cameron, singer Shania Twain and TV host Matt Lauer.

Bloomberg reports that some of the US' elite have been looking into New Zealand-based investments in an attempt to get residency here.