The Australian network that aired a widely criticised report on 501 deportees has hit back, with the reporter at the centre of the storm saying that Kiwis "responded with venom".
Reporter Jordan Fabris fronted last night on 9 News to say: "It doesn't seem like many people in New Zealand are happy that this story ran on Monday."
"It's had half a million views on our Facebook alone and today it hit the media in New Zealand that I gained access to this border force flight and highlighted some of these criminals that Australia is kicking out.
"Let's remember here, these people are convicted criminals. The New Zealand Government responded with venom at Australia's deportation process but their main target was Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton."
Yesterday, the Herald reported on local reaction to the controversial report, which saw Fabris given extraordinary access to the deportation process by Australia's Border Force, taking advantage of the opportunity to thrust a microphone in front of a woman being deported and asking: "Our country doesn't want you, are you excited to go home?"
His report also quoted Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who told the channel the flights were Australia's way of "taking the trash out".
"We're talking about the most serious offenders here and our country is safer for having deported them," he said.
The report - and Dutton's incendiary comments - were widely criticised in New Zealand.
Aimee Reardon, who works with returnees in her role with Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS), told the Herald that returnees already struggled with thinking that locals recognised them or were looking at them, when that was not always the case.
She said that the report didn't accurately reflect the ratio of New Zealanders coming back with relatively minor charges, saying they form the majority of deportees - and characterised Peter Dutton's comments as "ignorant", saying the minister was "ill-informed".
She also said that racism played a part in how the policy was enforced, saying there were "ulterior motives" at play.
She said his comments would hit hard for returnees, many of whom already needed counselling to "see themselves as people" again.
She said she has spoken to one returnee was "really upset" after seeing the report and concerned that his family in Australia might see it and it might affect the perceptions of people in his new community.
NZ politicians lash out
Yesterday, New Zealand politicians hit back fiercely at Australia's "deplorable" deportation policy and at Dutton's comments.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said Dutton's comments "only serve to trash his own reputation".
"I think they should reflect on how they are portraying the transfer of people back to New Zealand. Dutton's comments reflect his own personality."
Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins also slammed the comments and the Australian deportation policy in general - which is not reciprocated by New Zealand.
"This is Australia exporting its garbage to New Zealand.
"These people, their criminal offending has been in Australia.
"For all intents and purposes, many have lived the vast bulk of their lives in Australia.
"This is a deplorable move by the Australian government and we completely disagree with it, however they are entitled to do it."
Asked if he had inferred to the Kiwis as "garbage" himself, Hipkins said that was not his intention and he should have "chosen better words".
"I didn't mean to suggest that, that is Dutton's way of describing it."
The comments from her ministers were starkly different to the subdued tone taken by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who refused to be drawn into a "tit for tat" when questioned on the topic.
"Everyone is aware of our view on this and it is strongly held. The Australian government is within their rights, it just so happens we strongly disagree," she told reporters.
"I won't get into a tit for tat."
Earlier National leader Judith Collins called for retaliation, for New Zealand to start sending Australian criminals back there.
"We cannot be the dumping ground for everything wrong that's happened in Australia with people and criminal behaviour," she told 1News.
"They need to have some of them come back to them."
She also said the relationship between New Zealand and Australia at the government level was probably the "worst" in many years.
However, Ardern disputed this, saying despite consistently voicing their opposition to the Australian deportation policy it had "not changed the fact we have a very strong relationship".
"There has been no breakdown in our relationship at all. We have an excellent relationship with our counterparts, myself and Scott Morrison speak frequently and work together often, it just so happens on this issue we strongly disagree."