An overweight South African threatened with deportation from New Zealand because of his obesity was Monday granted a 23-month reprieve.
However, Albert Buitenhuis will not be entitled to any publicly-funded health care over the next two years, associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye said.
Buitenhuis — who now weighs 130 kilograms (286 pounds) — appealed to the minister two months ago when his work visa renewal application was rejected because of the demands his obesity could place on New Zealand’s health system.
When Buitenhuis and his wife Marthie moved from South Africa to the New Zealand city of Christchurch six years ago, Albert topped a massive 160 kilograms and until this year the annual work visa was renewed without any problem.
After reviewing information leading to the threat of deportation, Kaye said she had “made a decision giving Mr Buitenhuis a work visa for 23 months”.
“Under this arrangement he is not entitled to publicly-funded health care and he will have to meet any health costs himself,” she said.
Buitenhuis, who wrote a blog about his plight under the heading “The Too Fat Chef” told Fairfax Media the government decision was a “bitter sweet” outcome.
“Of course, we are pleased and relieved that we are now able to stay. It’s great,” he said.
“But at the same time we would rather rewind so that none of this took place. It has been a really hard time for both of us.
“We are really starting from scratch again. We have lost thousands of dollars fighting this and we don’t know where we will live because our home is gone. I am glad the fight is over but I am still afraid of what lies ahead.”
An Immigration New Zealand spokesman said in July that Buitenhuis was rejected because his obesity put him at “significant risk” of complications including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obstructive sleep apnoea.
“It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimise costs and demands on New Zealand’s health services,” he said.
A recent OECD report listed New Zealand as the third-most obese developed nation behind the United States and Mexico.