The French proprietors of Napier CBD eatery, Cafe Tennyson have been granted permanent residency following a battle to be allowed to remain in New Zealand.

Julien and Sophie Debord, along with their two young children arrived in New Zealand late in 2018, with an entrepreneur visa which was pending cancellation by Immigration New Zealand due to the Debords not meeting their business plan and targets, set prior to the pandemic.

They received good news last Friday and will be able to remain in New Zealand and carry on the Tennyson St business.

Batting for them were Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise, Napier MP Stuart Nash, the National Party’s Hawke’s Bay oversight MP, Louise Upston, and Napier City Business general manager Pip Thompson, who said the Debords were committed to riding the Covid storm for their loyal locals and stayed open facing the obvious, a major decline in revenue and huge staff shortages.

Julien and Sophie Debord.

The Mayor, MPs and Thompson were among those who wrote letters to immigration ministers, with data showing Napier City-wide’s decrease in foot traffic and revenue related to café and hospitality turnover in Napier in the last two years. Thompson says it has been an exceptionally difficult environment in which to achieve pre-Covid turnover levels.

Thompson says New Zealand CBDs have suffered from many business services working from home and the reality and fear of Covid-19 and Omicron. While working from home more is “here to stay”, she hoped as the peak of the current wave passes more people would strike a good balance between working from home and spending a few days a week back in the office in town.

According to a Napier City Business media release, local business owner and regular cafe supporter Kathryn McGarvey said the Debords are kind, friendly, hard-working people and only wanted them to be given a fair go

She created an online petition of more than 7300 signatures, which was presented to Green Party List MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere who later tabled the document in Parliament.

Nash, also the Minister of Tourism, said delays in reaching the result were around the café proprietors having not met all the obligations of the specific rules and a need to complete a process before exemption could be applied for and decided.

He said one of his own staff had extensive immigration services experience and, seeing that the impacts of Covid crisis were valid reasons, the office campaigned – “possibly more than for any other constituent I can remember” – for the family to be able to continue in New Zealand.

On the cafe’s Facebook page, Julien Debord said on: “There aren’t enough emojis to express how we all feel. And there will never be enough thanks to everyone who supported us, customers, staff, suppliers, friends, family, businesses… and the more than 7k signatures we got on the petition, which made a big difference.”

Napier City Business Inc General Manager Pip Thompson says, under the Debords’ ownership, the cafe quickly became a Napier City icon, an institution, bustling daily with local business people, families, and visitors. Their clean, fresh french flair added to the vibrant cafe culture Napier is so well known for now and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Debord’s were committed to riding the COVID storm for their loyal locals and stayed open facing the obvious, a major decline in revenue and huge staff shortages.

 To support the Debords fight for residency Thompson acted quickly by engaging her community in supporting the Debord’s. She reached out to her business association members, local leaders, Mayor Kristen Wise, and Napier City Councillor Sally Crown who all wrote letters to immigration ministers along with National MP for Taupo Louise Upston. The ministers were also presented with the data showing Napier City-wide’s decrease in foot traffic and revenue turnover. Foot traffic (average decrease of 23% in 2020 and a further 12% in 2021 with a total of -33% and the impact of Omicron is a combined total of -52%) Given there is an 85% correlation between foot traffic and café/ hospitality turnover in Napier, the last 2 years have been an exceptionally difficult environment in which to achieve pre covid turnover levels.

Local business owner and regular cafe supporter Kathryn McGarvey said the Debords are kind, friendly, hard-working people and only wanted them to be given a fair go. McGarvey created an online petition which quickly gained more than 7300 signatures. The petition was presented to Tairāwhiti Green List MP Dr. Elizabeth Kere Kere who tabled the document in Parliament the following week.

 The last two years have been exceptionally tough and uncertain for business, especially retail and hospitality.  Thompson says CBDs have suffered from many business services working from home and the reality and fear of Covid-19 and Omicron.  “Whilst we recognise that working from home more is here to stay we hope as the peak of the current wave passes more people will strike a good balance between working from home and spending a few days a week back in the office.

“With the borders  reopening, domestic and international travel becoming more comfortable, and cruise ships returning, CBDs need retail, businesses, and cafes like the Debord’s. They all create an essential part of the vibrancy of our iconic city.”

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1 Comment

  1. And so they should have been able to stay after what businesses across the country have been put through in the past two years. Commonsense should have prevaled no wonder these people had to go public, imagine how many other business owners who have come in under the entrepreneur catergory have had to leave the country. Congratulations on finally seeing sense Immigration!

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