Couple elated at residency news
The owners of a Nelson cafe facing a deadline to leave the country have won their battle to stay in New Zealand.
Scottish couple Steve Wilson and Rachel Yerbury-Wilson, with baby son Lewis, were surrounded by well-wishers in their Pottering About store yesterday where they were presented with the letter which secures their future in New Zealand.
Mr Wilson said they were "stunned" by the news, which Nelson MP Nick Smith told them on Wednesday night.
"It's been a long, long journey. Now we have it, we can live the rest of our lives in New Zealand and be happy," Mr Wilson said.
They emigrated to Nelson from Scotland in 2011 to start their Pottering About cafe but their time so far had been punctuated by stress.
There was uncertainty about their future in New Zealand after their immigration adviser Glen Standing had his immigration licence revoked soon after they opened their shop.
He was fined for providing incorrect advice and charging excessive fees to several clients. The Immigration Advisers Authority ruled that Mr Standing pay the couple back his fees and $8000 in damages, totalling $26,000. His business went into liquidation and they have not been paid..
Mr Standing had told the couple they would "100 per cent" get residency in New Zealand but in February Immigration New Zealand told them their resident application was denied. They were given a six-month deadline to leave the country.
In response, the couple started petitions to show the support they had from the Nelson community, and got more than 1500 signatures.
The Nelson Mail highlighted their plight. Mr Wilson said many people had wanted to support them after reading about their ordeal.
"People had taken it on their own agenda to send direct letters and emails to Nikki Kaye, emailing photos of their kids at the shop and writing beautiful letters," said Ms Yerbury-Wilson.
"One of the customers' kids, Sophie, took a couple pages to school at Nelson Central so there's all these 8 year-olds' scribbled signatures.
"We feel so much more loved and that what we do is worth it, and to have it proven by 1500 people, it's really overwhelming for us."
Mr Wilson said actually winning the battle "was the icing on the cake".
Over the past month Mr Smith has been supporting the couple, and yesterday presented them with a letter from Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye. Ms Kaye is responsible for considering residency appeals. Dr Smith also presented baby Lewis with an All Blacks shirt.
"I had always been confident with this case, but I never want to say to people you are guaranteed it, because you can't, I could only give it my best shot. I felt for them, with the uncertainty for their family," he said. "I would have felt the system would have failed them if they were deported."
He said it was a "happy ending" and a good result for the family, as well as Nelson.
In his letter to Ms Kaye, Dr Smith highlighted the couple's plight which began with bad advice from Glen Standing.
He said their business was "innovative" and "adds to Nelson's tourism flavour as a centre of creativity".
Friends and family were at the shop to hear the news yesterday.
Nelson immigration lawyer Mike McMellon said he had recently been working with the pair, pro bono, and the result was "amazing".
Friends Hazel and Frog Twissell were also at the shop to celebrate the news.
"We'd been following it with interest, it's absolutely amazing."
The couple said they were grateful to Dr Smith, the Nelson Mail, the staff at Pottering About and all the people who showed signs of support to keep them in New Zealand.
Their residency was dependent on health and character checks, which they had already supplied and were not expected to be an issue.
Dr Smith said the letter was "as good as a ‘yes' as you can get."