Gail and Steve Webster outside their flower shop Earthbloom after they were given a 12 month visa to stay in the country. Photo: Andrew Board.

Websters given stay from deportation

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Steve and Gail Webster’s immigration lifeline arrived in an email and it triggered a day of good fortune that helped them “feel normal again”.

Nelson Weekly reported on the Websters immigration fight last month. They were told they had to be out of the country by midnight on Friday May 20.

Their immigration enforcement officer had been in touch, Steve had cleared out his desk at work and their daughter had been told by her school that they couldn’t continue to teach her after that date. But 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, which gives them time to reapply for their business visa.

Steve says the email was a “weight off our shoulders”.

“The stress just left us and we were just drained. We’d had it hanging over us for so long it didn’t feel real. Until we got the passports it didn’t feel real.”

Less than 24 hours after the midnight email, the Websters’ daughter Becky passed her driving test, Steve sold two cars at his work, Bowater Toyota, and the flower business they own was buzzing. Steve says it was one of the best days he’s experienced. “It was such a great day. We went to the Honest Lawyer for dinner to celebrate and had a bottle of bubbly, my boss Tony Bowater also gave me a bottle of bubbly. It was just one of those days.”

The couple own Earthbloom Flower Shop and say they feel confident that a fresh application will pass the standards set by Immigration New Zealand. The 12-month visa gives them time to submit that application.

“We plan to make ourselves so wonderful they won’t be able to turn us down,” says Steve. “We have a full time employee, the shop is moving in the right direction, profits are good. We will be subleasing half of the shop which will help subsidise the extra wages.”

They say the support they received from Nelsonians after the initial article was of huge comfort for them.

“We felt like cornered rats. It was panic, there was nowhere to go and we felt helpless,” says Steve. “But people have been fantastic, going out of their way to come in and talk to us, it’s been really lovely and it reinforces the reason we came here in the first place. It’s such a lovely place to live and we just want the opportunity to stay.”

Gail says she even had strangers stop her on the street and in the supermarket to offer support and during the course of an interview for this article, a customer commented to Gail about their plight. “It’s been really touching,” she says.

Steve says the family has a spring in its step again. “We feel like the sun has come out for us. We’re moving house, it feels like a fresh start for us.”