A chef who has lost more than five stone since moving to New Zealand as an expat has been told he is too fat to stay in the country.
The government has withdrawn his visa saying his weight may place too much demand on the nation’s health services.
Albert Buitenhuis weighs in at 20 stone 6 pounds (286 pounds), although he topped 350 pounds when he moved to New Zealand from South Africa six years ago. The weight gain was blamed on Buitenhuis stopping smoking.
Not only is Buitenhuis facing deportation, but his wife Marthie must leave their home and family behind as well.
New Zealand has a regular struggle with tackling obesity – and is listed as the seventh most obese nation in the world for men. The USA is top, followed by Argentina, Greece and Mexico.
For obese women, New Zealand ranks 12th in the world, with Barbados, Kuwait and Trinidad and Tobago topping the chart.
Buitenhuis is 5 feet 10 inches tall and has a body mass index of 40. The only country with a higher average BMI for men is the USA, where the figure is 44.
Marthie Buitenhuis told the media in New Zealand that her husband’s weight did not stop him working a 40-hour week in a kitchen. The couple’s annual visa had been approved every year without comment.
Then, the visa was cancelled and Buitenhuis was told his BMI had to be 35 or less for him to stay in New Zealand.
“They never mentioned Albert’s weight or his health once and he was a lot heavier then,” she said.
“We’ve committed no crime and did nothing wrong other than my husband being a foodie.”
The Buitenhuis family doctor is supporting the couple’s appeal against deportation. He has told the New Zealand immigration department that Mr Buitenhuis can reach the target BMI figure within six months.
He also explained Mr Buitenhuis has a knee injury which could cost up to NZ$20,000 to replace.
An Immigration New Zealand spokesman said: “Our doctors have to look at the long term demand on health services and it’s unfortunate, but someone who is obese has a greater risk of contracting diabetes, heart disease, cancer and liver ailments.”
The most recent obesity figures for the nation were released in 2011 by the World Health organisation and New Zealand government.
They revealed obesity had soared from 9% for men and 11% for women in 1977 to 27.7% and 27.8% respectively in 2008.