Petition to grant Nelson firefighter residency presented to Parliament

Petition to grant Nelson firefighter residency presented to Parliament
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The petition to grant Steve Webster and his family residency was started online by former firefighting colleague Ken Mahon.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

The petition to grant Steve Webster and his family residency was started online by former firefighting colleague Ken Mahon.

A petition campaigning to grant residency to a Nelson volunteer firefighter has been presented before Parliament.

Nelson man Steve Webster and his family have been fighting for seven years to gain permanent residency after moving to New Zealand from the United Kingdom in 2012. 

The plight of Webster gained national attention after he was photographed helping fight the Pigeon Valley forest fire in Nelson in February.

Nelson MP Nick Smith presented the petition, which has gained more than 62,000 signatures, to Parliament on Tuesday.

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In April, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granted the family 24-month work visas, but said he was not prepared to grant permanent residence to them. 

Webster’s youngest daughter had already returned to the UK in August, after being unable to secure a study visa.

He said the family hoped the Government might revisit the situation and show some compassion. 

“I’m just a guest in this country, it’s not my place to really criticise government or ministers or anything else. But I’d love to stay, we’ve invested everything in being here and I feel we’ve done out best to integrate and be good citizens.”

Webster said the family had been blown away by the amount of support they had received from people signing the petition, most of whom had been complete strangers. 

Webster was part of Nelson volunteer brigade 212 fighting forest fires near Wakefield in February.

Braden Fastier/Stuff

Webster was part of Nelson volunteer brigade 212 fighting forest fires near Wakefield in February.

Smith said while the family had been granted a work visa, they needed the “stability and certainty of residency”.

“The family has been in New Zealand since 2012, are well settled, are making a positive contribution and it is in both their and New Zealand’s best interests that they be allowed to stay permanently.

“People were flummoxed that Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway had approved New Zealand residency for convicted drug dealer and gang associate Karel Sroubek but not a law abiding contributing community member like Mr Webster.”

The Websters arrived here on an entrepreneur work visa, buying a florist business as part of the visa requirements.

“The business was approved and we submitted a business plan – when we actually arrived we found we’d been conned and the business was virtually bankrupt, ” Webster said.

Instead of an initial aim to build the business up over three years, it took the Websters 18 months to get back to the envisaged starting point.

“We pushed really hard to meet the targets we’d given to immigration but in the end we were about six months short,” he said.



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