Permanent residency for firefighter denied

News 02/05/2019

A Nelson volunteer fire fighter says he was denied permanent residency despite his Kiwi business doing "extremely well" and being ready to employ a New Zealander.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that Steve Webster and his family were denied permanent residency by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and would have to settle for a two-year work visa.

The refusal came despite a petition boasting more than 53,000 signatures calling for the family to remain and not be forced back to England.

Webster told The AM Show that news of the residency denial was "absolutely devastating".

"We have invested our life savings, we gave up good jobs, our home, left behind families and friends to start a new life" he said

The dream is just shattered now

Issues for the family began after they arrived in New Zealand in 2012 on an entrepreneur work visa and purchased a florist - which turned out to be bankrupt.

"When we bought the business, it wasn't meant to be bankrupt, it was misrepresented to us," he said.

"We submitted a business plan to Immigration based on the figures we had and the expected turnover, and unfortunately, the business wasn't what we were led to believe or paid for."

Webster said it was a struggle, but the family was able to get the business back on its feet - just not in the three year time frame INZ had set out.

"The business was coming good and we also had criteria to employ a New Zealander full time as a staff which we were doing," he said.

"But the turnover, we just didn't get enough time to get it back onto the targets and so we just missed the target essentially.

The shop is doing extremely well but just not in the timeframe we were allowed

He said the work visas meant the family would continue to live in limbo as they had since they arrived in New Zealand.

His daughter was reluctantly going to return back to the United Kingdom as she couldn't afford her education fees as she continues to have to pay overseas student prices.

The petition's founder, Ken Mahon, said it was a sad situation.

"They really want to be New Zealanders, and they deserve to be New Zealanders. We just can't understand how a good family like this can't get in."

Although the family and Mahon are disheartened by the rejection, Mahon hasn't lost all hope.

"He's done a lot for the community, so maybe if we give [Lees-Galloway] a little push, he'll change his mind."

The AM Show / Newshub reporter Jamie Ensor