Chef Told he’s Too Fat to Live in New Zealand

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 27 2013 4:50 PM

New Zealand to South African Chef: You’re Too Fat to Live in This Country

169351876
New Zealand has one of the highest obesity rates in the world, with 27 percent of its residents qualifying as obese, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

New Zealand isn’t letting a South African chef renew his visa because he’s too fat. Albert Buitenhuis and his wife, Marthie, moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, six years ago and their annual work visas were always renewed with “very little problem,” Marthie Buitenhuis tells local newspaper the Press. But this year, immigration officials said Buitenhuis did not have “an acceptable standard of health” and said he could place a strain in the country’s health services.

The South African chef, who weighs 130 kilograms (287 pounds) and has a body mass index of more than 40, is considered medically obese. But he has actually dropped 30 kilograms (66 pounds) since moving to New Zealand in 2007. “They never mentioned Albert's weight or his health once and he was a lot heavier then,” Marthie Buitenhuis said.

Advertisement

Immigration officials defended the decision, saying the chef’s weight put him at “significant risk” of several illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease. "It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize costs and demands on New Zealand's health services," a spokesman said. Although the immigration spokesman insisted that obesity would almost never be a visa disqualifier by itself, “medical assessors have to consider to what extent there might be indications of future high-cost and high-need demand for health services."

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Natasha Lyonne Is Coming to the Live Culture Gabfest. Are You?

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
Behold
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Honcho Says Celebs Who Keep Nude Photos in the Cloud Are “Stupid”
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 2 2014 9:19 AM Alibaba’s Founder on Why His Company Is Killing It in China
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 2 2014 10:42 AM The Hanging Coffins of Sagada
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 2 2014 10:36 AM How Bad Will Adam Sandler’s Netflix Movies Be?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 2 2014 9:49 AM In Medicine We Trust Should we worry that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?