2 Feb 2017

Xero founder 'absolutely' backs Peter Thiel citizenship

From Morning Report, 7:20 am on 2 February 2017

Xero founder Rod Drury says American billionaire Peter Thiel absolutely should be a New Zealand citizen, and he would welcome Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk coming here too.

American billionaire Peter Thiel and Xero founder Rob Drury.

Co-founder of PayPal Peter Thiel and Xero founder Rob Drury. Photo: AFP / RNZ

Late yesterday, documents released by Internal Affairs revealed Mr Thiel visited New Zealand only four times before being granted citizenship under exceptional circumstances.

The papers show the department recommended his application be approved in 2011 because of his skills as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

The documents also show Mr Drury and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan wrote in support of Mr Thiel's citizenship bid.

Mr Drury says New Zealand now has to look after itself as the world changes.

"Normal trading relationships are starting to change so maybe in some of these areas we should be playing to win.

That's a really interesting thing for a New Zealand perspective because absolutely our values are fairness and evenness... It's a very emotional discussion. Maybe it is more rational that we try to encourage these types of relationships."

Mr Drury said his company had been interested in investment from Mr Thiel and his support for his citizenship came about during that process.

"It's been really good for us. He's absolutely the sort of person that you'd want to build relationships with. We've had a huge amount of value out of it."

The files showed Trade Me founder Sam Morgan also wrote in support of Mr Thiel's citizenship bid.

The documents said Mr Thiel did not meet the usual requirement of of having been a permanent resident for 1350 days. He had visited New Zealand four times before being granted citizenship but the department withheld information on how many days in total Mr Thiel had spent in the country.

Iain Lees-Galloway.

Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

Labour Party immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway said it was evident Mr Thiel's wealth was a key factor but lack of time he had spent in the country raised huge questions.

He said it was clear Mr Thiel had never lived in New Zealand and never will.

Mr Lees-Galloway told Morning Report the investment and networking on behalf of Xero could have been done without Mr Thiel becoming a citizen.

"I've been searching around to see what he's done since he's become a citizen and I'm not sure exactly what it is."