A well-known Bay of Islands family from China with a thriving strawberry business are facing deportation - a plight that has spurred support from the local community.
The Jia family – Peter and Lina and their 10-year-old daughter Cici - have been ordered by Immigration New Zealand to leave the country.
The date of departure was set by Immigration NZ as today and comes after a years-long battle to stay in the country failed.
The Bay of Islands community have put 600 signatures to a petition showing huge support and highlighting the family's concerns for their wellbeing if they return to China, where they say they suffered religious and economic persecution.
The couple's son Jerry Jia sponsored his parents and younger sister to New Zealand in 2016 on visitor visas.
He said his parents "are in hardship now but we're not losing hope".
They were prepared to appeal further if issued with a deportation order, he said.
"My parents, they're extremely important to me. I don't want to lose them or my sister. It would be extremely hard for them to start over again."
Jerry Jia came to New Zealand in 2010 as an international student and he completed his bachelor of finance degree at Massey University.
His parents initially lived in Mangonui for a year then moved to Waimate North where their son set up his business.
The family lease 6ha of land growing mainly strawberries but also watermelon and soybeans, and sell the produce at markets and roadside stalls around the Bay of Islands. During peak season, they employ five part-time staff.
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Soon after they arrived, they applied for refugee and protected person status with the Refugee Status Branch on advice from their lawyer.
That was declined in 2016, as was their appeal to the Immigration Protection Tribunal the following year.Subsequent appeals were unsuccessful, with the IPT rejecting their claim as "lacking credibility", saying it was "not established that appellants cannot practise Christianity in China".
In August this year Northland MP Matt King appealed to Associate Immigration Minister Poto Williams asking for work visas for the family.
Williams said she would not intervene, referring the family to the immigration compliance operations group for "priority enforcement action".
The letter from an immigration compliance officer said the family "must make immediate arrangements to leave New Zealand" and "strongly encouraged" them to depart voluntarily by November 29.
In a last-ditch effort, a petition signed by more than 600 people in the community was then delivered to King's electorate office which he sent to Williams again asking for intervention, which was also declined.
Kerikeri Baptist Church pastor Stuart Angus – who started the petition – said he has known the "hardworking, generous and well-loved family" for four years.
The family attend the church and hosted regular gatherings in their home for Chinese language speakers from Kerikeri, Paihia, Kawakawa and Kaikohe, he said.
"They are a delightful family, kind and well-loved ... and have become friends and good neighbours to many folks in our community. They are people of integrity, people who have come to New Zealand to seek a new life for themselves."
Jerry said though his parents can't specify the reasons they will suffer persecution, for fear of further retribution if they returned home, one reason is their Christian faith.
Appeals from other cases filed with the IPT show fears of harm from state officials due to religious beliefs and fears of persecution as practising Christians.
Jerry, who has residency, said he was reduced to tears at the show of community support when he saw the petition.
"My parents feel loved by the community, and feel they add value to the local economy. For my sister, she was 6 when she came here, she is now an English speaker, she can hardly understand Chinese."
Northland MP Matt King said the family are genuine, hard-working people.
"All they're asking for is a work visa so they can have time to get their affairs in order. This is a family wanting to stay united, that want to work. They're contributing to society, they have a humanitarian reason, they are loved by the community - they tick all the boxes.
"This is a no-brainer; it's a classic case that the minister's descretion is for. She can and should intervene. But not only did she decline to intervene, she referred them to the immigration compliance operations unit. That's totally over the top."
When asked to respond to Northern Advocate questions, Associate Minister Poto Williams said: "It is inappropriate for me to comment on individual cases."
Immigration New Zealand general manager enablement Stephen Dunstan said all applications were assessed on a case-by-case basis against the relevant immigration instructions.
"Due to legal reasons INZ cannot provide any further information on this matter."