Peter Thiel

PHOTO: Peter Thiel. FILE

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel aims to construct a deluxe lodge along the picturesque shores of Lake Wānaka. Environmental groups express concerns about potential visibility issues from both the Te Araroa Trail and Lake Wānaka. However, plans for the 190-meter-long structure include strategic landscaping and innovative architectural techniques to minimize its visual impact.

The McCaw MANSION | Wanaka

An artist’s impression of Peter Thiel’s proposed Wānaka guest lodge, which has been designed by Tokyo Olympic Stadium architects Kengo Kuma and Associates.

Thiel’s company, Second Star Ltd, is appealing a decision by the Queenstown Lakes District Council to deny consent for the lodge at Damper Bay. While the council no longer opposes the project, it faces opposition from environmental societies primarily due to concerns regarding its visibility from nearby areas.

An artist’s impression of the view from inside the lodge proposed for Damper Bay, Wānaka.

The proposed lodge, designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma and Associates, is intended to blend seamlessly into its surroundings, drawing inspiration from the natural landscape. Measures such as native planting covering a significant portion of the site and the strategic placement of buildings aim to integrate the lodge into the environment.


Opposition to the project is largely based on its visibility from the nearby Te Araroa Trail and Lake Wānaka.

Despite its considerable length and height, the lodge’s design ensures minimal visual intrusion, with passers-by likely to only catch fleeting glimpses of the structure. Efforts have also been made to mitigate visibility concerns along the Wānaka-Glendhu Bay walking and cycle track, a part of the Te Araroa Trail.


An artist’s impression

The project promises significant tourism, economic, and ecological benefits for the local area, according to Second Star lawyer Mike Holm. However, concerns persist about the lodge’s compatibility with the outstanding natural landscape, prompting discussions about its appropriateness in such a setting.

Tourism consultant Stephen Hamilton suggests that potential guests at the lodge, attracted by its luxury amenities, are more likely to seek relaxation and cultural experiences rather than active outdoor pursuits.

Environmentalists argue Peter Thiel’s luxury NZ lodge will ‘destroy’ lake landscape

While Thiel’s personal involvement in the lodge is expected to be limited, the project remains a subject of scrutiny in the ongoing Environment Court hearing.

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Peter Thiel, known for his entrepreneurial ventures and investments, including co-founding PayPal and early backing of Facebook, acquired New Zealand citizenship in 2017. His citizenship stirred controversy due to exemptions granted for the purchase of sensitive land, raising questions about residency requirements.