Nelson business owners Gail and Steve Webster have been told they will be deported this Friday unless a last-minute appeal is successful. Photo: Andrew Board.

‘We could be deported by Friday’

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A family’s dream move to Nelson could have an abrupt end this Friday when they are scheduled to be deported from the country.

Steve and Gail Webster moved to Nelson from the United Kingdom in 2012 with their two teenage daughters.

But the “dream move” is turning into a nightmare after they invested their life savings into buying a local business and building new lives, only to be denied residency.

“We’re a good part of the community, good-hard working people. We’re not millionaires who will build a factory and employ 1000 people – I wish I could – we’re just little people who really want to live here,” says Steve.

The family were granted an interim visa last November, three years after they arrived in the country on a business visa, but had their bid for permanent residency turned down in early April.

Among the reasons was because they hadn’t employed a full time New Zealander after three years in business and hadn’t met growth goals. The couple say the business they bought, Earthbloom, wasn’t as good as it appeared in the books and it took them two years to work it back from the brink. Gail says the business has “turned a corner”, but that it wasn’t a big enough corner. “And that’s pretty hard to hear.”

Last week the Websters had their bid for a temporary visa delayed, meaning that if another last-ditch attempt for a temporary visa this week is unsuccessful then they will have to leave the country on Friday.

Steve is employed at Bowater Toyota, is a volunteer fire fighter and Earthbloom employs a part time staff member.

They say they feel gutted and are uncertain about what lies ahead.

“We have no idea what our life is like past next Friday and it’s scary,” says Steve.

In an ideal world, the Webster will get an interim visa this week, be allowed to appeal their declined bid for residency – which will almost certainly fail. They can then resubmit their application for residency having met its business goals, which they feel they are on track to do.

But it all hinges on getting a temporary visa this week.

The Websters have already applied for holiday visas to Australia in case they have to leave on Friday.

“As of right now, we have been ordered to leave New Zealand by Friday or we are liable to being arrested, incarcerated and deported. We’ve got to hop out of the country and they may not let us back in. So we’ve got a business that will just collapse, all our life savings will be lost because we won’t be able to sell it in six weeks,” says Steve.

“We just want some common sense on this.”

Nelson MP Nick Smith has been helping the Websters but was unavailable for comment when approached by the Weekly on Monday.

The Websters are hoping their last-ditch efforts will be enough to keep in the country they love.