In the end it was a TV reporter who brought the news Martyn Payne had been waiting eight years to hear.

The owner of Kapiro Garage, on State Highway 10 north of Kerikeri, was checking fuel tank levels when he saw a familiar Campbell Live car pull up. The news was so overwhelming he had to sit down where he was, on the concrete of his garage forecourt.

The English immigrant originally came to New Zealand on an entrepreneur's visa but a dodgy heart meant he was refused residency. Although his daughter and grandchildren were already settled in New Zealand, he had exhausted all his avenues to stay, except for one final appeal to Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye.

He was granted residency on Thursday after a dramatic improvement in his longstanding heart condition, revealed in a check-up at Kawakawa Hospital.

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Mr Payne said he was overwhelmed by the support he'd received from around New Zealand. "I owe them a great debt. Even if I'd been slung out, I'd have fond memories of all the people who've supported me. If it wasn't for the people here I would've given up. I would've left ages ago."

That support had included a man who drove up from Whangarei just to shake Mr Payne's hand, a customer who dropped off a bottle of bubbly, and a stream of regulars stopping by yesterday to offer their congratulations. He had also had six offers of marriage - five from women, one from a man - from Kiwis wanting to help him stay. "It's been absolutely unbelievable. There's no place that would happen other than New Zealand."

The family planned to have a celebratory get-together today and a sausage sizzle to thank friends and supporters at the garage from noon to 4pm tomorrow.