Woodend community rallies support for hospitality owners facing deportation

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Jul 01, 2023 |

Michael and Zora, the “beloved owners” of the Grub Hub café of Woodend face deportation Photo: Supplied

Local residents in Woodend are calling on Immigration New Zealand to allow a much loved couple to remain in their community.

Michael and Zora, owners of the Grub Hub café, live in their adopted hometown of Woodend.

The couple, originally from China, are facing the threat of deportation after their visa applications were declined.

Locals say Michael and Zora have become integral members of the community, admired and respected for their hard work and dedication in running the popular local café.

However, their dreams of building a life and contributing to the community they now call home hang in the balance as they are forced to confront the possibility of leaving behind their business, employees, and the close-knit community.

The couple’s journey began when they arrived in New Zealand. They established the Grub Hub café, which quickly became a gathering place for locals and visitors alike.

However, their dreams were dealt a severe blow when the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns inflicted a heavy toll on their business.

Determined to overcome the challenges, Zora made the difficult decision to return to her studies.

This decision inadvertently led to a breach of her visa conditions, prompting Immigration New Zealand to deny their visa applications and issue a deportation notice.

The news of Michael and Zora’s impending departure has struck a chord with the Woodend community, who have experienced firsthand the positive impact the couple has had on their lives.

Woodend School teacher Caitlin Loose told Chris Lynch Media “Mikey and Zora are kind and amazing community people.

“They welcome all customers, and friends with a big smile and contribute to our close knit community.

Woodend Community Association President Mark Paterson with Michael and Zora, along with Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey

“Mikey and Zora are two people Woodend does not want to lose. We would appreciate all the support possible in keeping them in woodend forever.”

The couple are known for their strong support for the community.

They sponsor the Woodend Rugby Club. Michael coaches basketball to local children and hopes to become a volunteer firefighter for the local Woodend Volunteer Fire Brigade. 

Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey and Woodend Community Association President Mark Paterson have also thrown their support behind the couple signing an online petition to keep them in New Zealand.

Doocey told Chris Lynch Media “when residents of Woodend approached me asking for help with Michael and Zora’s immigration issue it soon became clear that they have an enormous level of local support.

“I’m thrilled for Michael and Zora that we received more than 2000 signatures in the first few hours, and I’d encourage everyone who hasn’t signed to jump online and show their support.

As local MP I stand behind hard-working business owners like Michael and Zora who make a real positive difference in their community.”

Regular Grub Hub customer Danyel Boyle said “these two are good people, I have the pleasure of regularly dropping in for a coffee and always enjoy our chats.

Hard working community minded people should not be deported especially for trying to better their situation. Just wrong by Immigration NZ.”

Teresa McKay, who signed the petition said “they’ve proven themselves to be hard working and well respected by the community. They deserve to stay.”



Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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