Support flows in for cafe couple

UNDER DEADLINE: Rachel Yerbury-Wilson, Lewis Wilson, 5 months, and Steve Wilson in Pottering About.
UNDER DEADLINE: Rachel Yerbury-Wilson, Lewis Wilson, 5 months, and Steve Wilson in Pottering About.

A Nelson couple facing an immigration deadline to leave the country say they are humbled by the support they have received.

Steve Wilson and Rachel Yerbury-Wilson moved to Nelson from Scotland in 2011 to start their Pottering About cafe in Buxton Square.

However, their immigration adviser Glen Standing grossly misled them as to what was required to get residency. He had since had his licence revoked for providing incorrect advice and charging clients excessive fees.

In November last year the couple applied for residency, just after their baby Lewis was born.

However, they found out last week this had been denied on the grounds the business was not making enough profit and they did not meet the self-employed criteria. They had been given six months to leave.

Since the Nelson Mail reported their story on Friday, the couple had been inundated with support.

They had launched a petition in the cafe which would be included in an appeal to stay. The petition had gathered almost 300 signatures so far and was to show the government the benefit the couple had added to the Nelson community, they said.

They had also started an online petition through the website as they had many people emailing them who were no longer in Nelson but had been to the business and wanted to help. This was at almost 200 signatures this morning.

"A lot of people came in to sign the petition on Saturday morning. The cafe was heaving with people," Ms Yerbury-Wilson said.

She said the Nelson public had been "sweet and humbling, they make us feel really wanted".

She was particularly touched by an elderly couple who went to the cafe weekly and who told her they wanted to donate money to their cause.

The couple had also been offered accommodation at a holiday park for a few nights to relax and get away from the stress.

Labour MP Rajen Prasad had also reached out with support and advice.

Nelson MP Nick Smith had written to Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye, and said he was pursuing every avenue possible to help the family.

"I just want to keep all options live to give the family the very best chance to stay in Nelson."

This could be done through the Appeals Authority and directly to the office of Nikki Kaye.

"I think they have a good case which is why I am putting the work in to try and ensure they can stay in the community."

Head of the immigration team at Pitt & Moore lawyers, Mike McMellon, said Immigration New Zealand was entitled to take the position it was taking, however, he had sympathy for the couple.

He said with Dr Smith's support, the couple "may be successful" in being granted residency.

It was a difficult visa category, he said.

"When I talk to people about these kinds of visas I explain that the world can change quite remarkably from the time you get your initial visa to work, to the time you apply for residency.

"In this couple's case they have reached the stage where they have had to apply for residency and Immigration New Zealand have decided they have not met the requirements. It's really quite sad when you think they had put their heart and soul into it and now have to walk away from everything."

Mr McMellon referred to a similar case of a man from Britain who set up a garage business in Northland. Martyn Payne got a last-minute reprieve from Ms Kaye last year just a month before his deportation date.

He had moved to New Zealand from the UK in 2005 on an entrepreneur's visa and invested more than $700,000 into his business. However, he became ill and Immigration New Zealand refused him residency on that ground.

While he was eventually allowed to stay in New Zealand, Mr McMellon said issues like this showed the difficulties of long-term business and entrepreneur visas.

"You are in a protracted transaction with Immigration New Zealand over a long period of time. Circumstances can change - it's a bit difficult to apply under. That's at the best of times when you are getting good advice."