Steve Webster can finally call the place he fought so bravely to protect, home.
After helping battle the Tasman fires on the frontlines, as well as facing numerous immigration hurdles, Steve and his wife Gail are now New Zealand citizens.
And the news is still sinking in.
“Stunned shock,” Steve says. “It wasn’t expected at all, we had no inkling, we had no advice that there was a decision pending or anything.”
Steve and his wife Gail first visited New Zealand in 1990 while on a gap year and fell in love with it.
“Since then we always dreamt of living here.”
The couple made the move in November 2012 on a work visa after leaving their jobs and selling their home in the UK.
Their dream soon became a nightmare, though, when it was revealed they had bought a fraudulent business off a scam artist who had fled the country.
The Websters spent the next eight years having to continually renew visas with the threat of deportation a constant fear.
“We were just living one to two years at a time, it gave us no security.”
Immigration eventually told the Websters to leave New Zealand.
However, as well his as fight for residency, Steve was also among the brave men and women on the frontline during the 2019 Tasman Fires.
It was during this time that the Websters’ plight came to the attention of the public from a photo.
“It was all down to that picture, it was just a fluke, somebody took a photo of me, I didn’t even see them. They were 100m away.”
The photo caught the eye of a friend of Steve’s who created a petition which gathered 94,000 signatures and was presented to Nelson MP Nick Smith.
This led to appeals to the Immigration Minister and eventually a review of the decision.
Steve says with everything else going on, he figured his residency was well off the radar.
“We were not even following up that hard because of Covid and the elections. We thought no one would be interested in us so it was absolutely out of the blue.”
Nick delivered the life-changing news.
“He walked in, shook my hand and gave me the letter he received from Immigration Minister Poto Williams.”
Steve looked at Nick and said ‘I suppose a hug is out of the question,’ to which Nick replied ‘definitely not’ before the men embraced.
Steve then got straight on the phone to his wife.
“She didn’t believe it, she said ‘don’t even joke about that’, I shot up the road with the letter and she just looked at me while her knees went and she had to sit down, she was breathless, we both were.”
Steve says his family has fully embraced the Kiwi lifestyle and says the way people reacted to their problem made them feel that they chose the right country.
“We are extremely happy and grateful for what we’ve been given. We love Nelson, it is big enough to be interesting and small enough to feel friendly.”
Steve says he keeps having to remind himself that he can get on with life without this hanging over their heads.
“A huge weight is gone, you just have these quiet moments where you just sit and grin.”
Nick says the Websters are very well-deserving citizens.
“This is a lovely family who have showed huge resilience, they have already contributed much to Nelson but are going to make great Kiwis.”