A Tongan overstayer who has a child with a Rotorua woman has been denied bail while his immigration status is being reviewed.
Siegfried Fisiihoi, 23, was heavily supported by members of the community, including Rotorua's deputy mayor Trevor Maxwell, when he appeared before Judge James Weir yesterday in Rotorua District Court.
Fisiihoi was detained in custody following his arrest on a minor charge of breaching a liquor ban 10 days ago after it was flagged on the police computer he was an overstayer.
His lawyer, Kevin Babcock, handed letters of support to the judge including one from Mr Maxwell, the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, Fisiihoi's employers and one from Rotorua MP Todd McClay, which had been forwarded to associate Minister of Immigration Kate Wilkinson.
His partner, Messina Royal, was in tears in the public gallery supported by her father, Senior Constable William Royal, throughout the court appearance. Miss Royal and Fisiihoi have a 2-year-old son.
If forced out of New Zealand, Fisiihoi will not be able to apply for another entry visa or work permit for five years.
Mr Babcock applied for bail for Fisiihoi on the grounds the minister could intervene at any stage, suspending the removal order until the case was reviewed.
Ministry of Immigration prosecutor Amanda Gordon told the court Fisiihoi had applied for his work permit to be reviewed but the Immigration Department declined it because of his relationship status at the time. Fisiihoi told them he was with another woman who was expecting a baby, Ms Gordon said.
Meanwhile, a removal order had been issued by the Immigration Minister, travel documents were ready and a flight had been booked for Fisiihoi to leave the country on Friday.
Ms Gordon said Fisiihoi should remain in custody as there was no guarantee he would be allowed to stay in New Zealand.
"It's only in rare circumstances the minister will intervene," she said.
Judge Weir told Mr Babcock his client would remain in custody until it was determined the minister would step in.
"You have my sympathy," he said.
Fisiihoi was remanded in custody to reappear in court today.
"Let's see whether your position improves overnight," Judge Weir said.
Outside court, Mr Maxwell said Fisiihoi was a "hard working" man and an awesome father and it would be a shame for him to be forced to leave the country.
Fisiihoi has played in the Bay of Plenty development squad and has worked in the steel industry since arriving in the country.
His partner, Miss Royal, is Mr Maxwell's niece.
"He should be allowed to stay," Mr Maxwell said.
"They were going to get married in time."