Key Points:

The Green Party was last night forced to defend itself against claims that its new population policy is a move towards China's "One Child" regime.

The policy proposes setting a level of population New Zealand could sustain and leaving room within that for climate change refugees from Pacific Islands.

It also wants parents educated about the impacts of population growth when they are planning their family size and how far apart to have children.

National, Act and the Maori Party described it as a step towards population control measures similar to China's One Child policy.

Last night, the party released a statement by senior MP Keith Locke saying its policy had been misinterpreted.

"There is no way the Green Party would ever dictate to any parent how many children they should have," he said. "Every child is a loved and wanted child. It would also be racist to try to dictate family size, given that the various ethnic groups in our society have different birthrates."

Greens population spokeswoman Metiria Turei yesterday denied it was an attempt to discourage people from having large families. She said awareness of the impact their families had on resources and the environment would allow parents to make an "informed decision" about their family size.

"We certainly wouldn't support anything like the One Child policy in China or those draconian measures."

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said it was a case of "middle-class" Greens trying to tell others how big their families should be.

"Tell them to go to China where there is a One Child policy. But don't start trying to control fertility and social engineering like that here."

Tariana Turia said it flew in the face of the Greens' immigration policy to boost refugee numbers from 750 to 1000 a year.

"They want to increase numbers of people coming in from the outside but they're trying to stop people in this country from having the family size they want. Well, it's none of their business."

National's Judith Collins said it amounted to a "guilt trip" to discourage people from having several children.

"We don't want to have that extension of nanny state into people's homes. If they are going to make parents of three, four or five children feel guilty, that's disgraceful."

Act leader Rodney Hide said it was a first step toward zero-population growth. He suggested that perhaps if parents planted a field of trees, they might be able to have twins.