Obese chef threatened with deportation from NZ wins reprieve

Published:  11 Sep at 6 PM
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The bizarre tale of South African Albert Buitenhuis, who spent years as a chef in New Zealand before being threatened with deportation for being too fat, has finally ended via a 23 month reprieve.

The obese chef and his wife Marthie arrived in Christchurch six years ago and were granted visas without problems, although at that time Buitenhuis weighed 160 kilos, a not unusual weight for a chef who loves his food. Until 2013, his work permit and long-stay visa was renewed without trouble, much to the relief of his restaurant-owner employer.

The blow fell this year, when the chef’s weight was designated a risk to New Zealand’s health service, in spite of the fact that he’d lost 30kgs since his arrival. He and his wife were served with deportation orders, and subsequently the sad tale went viral online and was published internationally.

His employer, customers and friends went into high gear and lobbied anyone they thought could help, but the couple’s savings were soon spent and they were forced to leave Christchurch to stay with a relative in Auckland. An appeal to Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye was set up, and Buitenhuis went online with a blog headed ‘The Too Fat Chef’.

Finally, Ms Kaye came up trumps, reversed the deportation order and granted the couple a 23-month work visa. However, as a very relieved Buitenuis told the media, they’ve lost their rented home, most of their possessions and all their savings.

He’s not worried about starting again, and grateful to all those who spoke up for him and Marthie, but regrets the necessity of spending all they had on lawyers and medical reports. An immigration spokesperson told the press in July that his weight put him in serious risk of obesity-related diseases, but later medical reports suggested the risk was minimal.
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