Time for some discretion, Iain

Nelson firefighter Steve Webster

There seems to be some confusion as to whether or not Steve Webster and his family are to be deported. Immigration NZ claim that there is no impending action against them, that their visas are valid until July and that they are able to reapply at that time. This does not, however, seem to be the opinion of those close to the Websters themselves. An online petition, which has reached 30,000 signatures, was started by friend and fellow firefighter Ken Mahon, who probably has a fair idea of the current situation regarding the Webster family.

All that Immigration NZ have stated is that their visas are current and that there is no pending action against them… yet. quote.

As of 2pm on Monday after the petition to Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway had gained 31,025 signatures. 
On the Change.org page, Mr Mahon described Mr Webster as an “active member” of the community. 
“As can be seen [he] is involved in fighting the current fires and the immigration people want to send him and his family back to England. Everyone get behind this man we need people like him in NZ.”
Mr Webster and his wife own a flower shop in Nelson, and as well as being a volunteer firefighter he works as a car salesman. 

But the petition to keep him in the country seems unnecessary, as neither he nor his family are at risk of deportation.?
“Mr Webster and his family are all legally in New Zealand and are not facing deportation”, Immigration NZ manager Michael Carley told Newshub.

Newshub end quote

However, the Websters seem fairly certain that any further application for residency will be turned down. quote.

In 2016 the Nelson Weekly reported the family had their bid for permanent residency turned down in early April that year. They were told they had to be out of the country by midnight on Friday May 20.
Just 48 hours before that deadline, Steve received an email at midnight on Wednesday saying they had been given a 12-month essential skills work visa, Nelson Weekly reported.

However, Mahon said the family had again landed themselves in a fight against immigration after they had been given until June this year to leave the country.

a newspaper end quote.

I was involved in a similar case in 2017 when an American couple were deported because the business they were running, a Lower Hutt cafe, did not quite meet its profit forecasts. Believe me, the shortfall was a small one, but the Immigration Department showed absolutely no discretion and they were forced to leave.

There were comments at the time that the American family were from the wrong ethnic background, but I cannot confirm if that is Immigration NZ’s policy. The same could be said about the Webster family, who are from the UK.

Knowing now that he believes himself to be facing deportation from New Zealand, if not quite yet, then within a few months, Steve Webster has even more of my admiration for putting his own life at risk to help to save people, animals and property in a country that clearly does not want him as a resident.

30,000 others seem to agree, and I am sure the true number is much greater than that.

What happened to the days when residency in this country was as much dependent on good character and contribution to society as to work skills? It seems that fitting into a community and contributing to it in a positive way does not count for anything these days.

Take a look at this photo, of someone who was granted residency on the basis of ministerial discretion late last year.

Karel Sroubek image credit Newshub

So who would you rather have as a permanent resident – a drug dealer with gang associations serving a prison sentence, who arrived under a false identity and threatens and assaults his wife? Or a man prepared to put his own life on the line fighting fires in his local community?

I know who I would rather have as a resident of New Zealand.

The minister of immigration has the right to overrule any departmental decisions regarding residency applications, unless (as in the Sroubek case) an applicant cannot be considered for residency because of certain conditions, such as criminal convictions. You will note that this did not stop Iain Lees-Galloway from granting Sroubek residency in the first instance.

So it is time that the minister used his powers of discretion to grant residency to a family who are clearly the kind of immigrants that we want to have here.

It is a shame that the minister for immigration is not governed by the maxim that all doctors are expected to abide by: “First, do no harm”. That Immigration New Zealand was prepared to accept Sroubek but not the Websters tells us that either they are grossly incompetent, or there is something shady going on within that particular government department. My money is on the latter.

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