Immigrant, aged 101: It would have been 'odd' if they'd thrown me out

By Keith Perry

First, Horace Mayes got a 100th birthday card from the Prime Minister. Then immigration authorities told him he was being kicked out of the country.

The shocked centenarian only avoided becoming the oldest person to be removed from New Zealand after embarrassed Government ministers performed a dramatic u-turn and allowed him to stay.

Yesterday, Mr Mayes, 101, spoke of his delight at being able to stay in the country he has been visiting for Christmas holidays since 1979.

Until last week, the former research chemist feared he would suffer the indignity of being sent back to Britain "on a technicality" despite having sold his Sussex home.

But immigration officials softened their hardline stance following the intervention of Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove, who asked them to take another look at the case.

Mr Mayes said he had celebrated by sailing on the Hauraki Gulf with his family. He enjoys playing bridge at the local club and relaxes with stunning views of the sea from his family's clifftop home on Waiheke Island with his son and daughter-in-law.

"I got a card from Helen Clark on my 100th birthday," said Mr Mayes. "It would have been a bit odd if her Government then threw me out of the country a few months later."

The sprightly immigrant, a grandfather of two who stopped driving his car only at age 99, added: "I am delighted they have allowed me to stay with my son and daughter-in-law.

"It always seemed a strange decision to send me back as I am not likely to cause any harm by being here.

"My doctor said I have the health of a 77-year-old. I fit in easily with my English background and I have enough money to support myself until I die, even if I have to go into a rest home. It has been a very worrying few months and I am glad it has a happy ending."

His son, Professor David Mayes, a former chief economist at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, said: "We are very happy. It has been very stressful for a man of my father's age. I can understand why these rules were designed to prevent people coming here for a few years then jetting off leaving their elderly relatives behind for the state to look after.

"The rules have been drawn up for a general purpose but unfortunately they do not cater very well for specific cases.

"I always thought that the Government would not want the negative publicity associated with deporting such an elderly man and would intervene in the end."

Mr Mayes, a widower who has been living with his English-born son, now a New Zealand citizen, since 2006, was refused residency on a technicality - his son hadn't lived here for the required minimum 184 days in each of the three years before his application was made.

In his application for residency, the centenarian told immigration officials he no longer wished to live alone in Britain and his 63-year-old son thought the sensible and responsible option was for him to come to live with him and his wife.

Mr Mayes had sold his home in Steyning, East Sussex, and arrived on a visitor's permit in July 2006. It expired in April 2007, but he didn't renew it because he believed he wasn't required to while his residence application was being determined.

In his appeal to the independent Residence Review Board (RRB), he said he had "adequate financial resources" to support himself and met Immigration New Zealand (INZ) health requirements.

Despite his considerable savings and receiving a healthy annual pension from Britain, the RRB confirmed INZ's decision to decline the man's application, saying there were no special circumstances.

Last night Mr Cosgrove said: "I am glad he is happy and I wish the gentleman a great time in New Zealand. In fairness I think the system has worked, and because there is flexibility you can make these sorts of interventions."

New Zealand welcomed another centenarian immigrant last week when 102-year-old Briton Eric King-Turner arrived in Wellington aboard the Saga Rose cruise ship.

Mr King-Turner, New Zealand's oldest immigrant, moved halfway across the world with his New Zealand-born wife of more than 12 years, Doris, 89.

- NZ Herald

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