Church communities around New Zealand can host and settle an extra 1200 Syrian refugees, the Anglican and Catholic Church says.
That is over and above an emergency package to be announced by the Government later today, which will allow hundreds of refugees to come to New Zealand.
Cardinal John Dew of the Roman Catholic Church and Archbishop Philip Richardson of the Anglican Church stood together to address media this morning at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Wellington.
"We are really grateful that the Government are prepared to step up. We are saying that we believe, through the churches, we could handle even more," Cardinal Dew said.
The church leaders had been "gratified and astounded" at the number of people within their communities who had put their hand up to help.
Between the two churches there were about 650 parishes, and if even half of those committed to help one family each, 300 families could be settled - a minimum of about 1200 people.
Archbishop Richardson said the movement across Europe of refugees was unseen since World War II, and was a response to totalitarianism and extremism.
"The most effective way we can, as communities, respond is with generous compassion. It is such an occasion, it is such a time in history again."
Each parish had support networks such as schools and social services, and both men were confident issues such as translation difficulties could be overcome.
"What we are seeing across our own church communities is that we are already multicultural communities...we certainly would be optimistic that we can address a range of resource issues, including the issue of translation," Archbishop Richardson said.
"We have a long history and experience with assisting with resettlement, so this is not unfamiliar territory to us. So moving people from immediate support through to their own homes and their own jobs and making a significant contribution to New Zealand society is something we know about."
That history included helping settle Polish refugees in the 1940s and people fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s.
Cardinal Dew did not believe the fact refugees were not likely to hold the same religious belief as their hosts would be any issue.
"This is a humanitarian crisis, and I think that's what people are saying they want to help with - they have seen other human beings driven from their homes. People really struggling...people want to help others."
The Government will today announce an emergency package to allow hundreds of Syrian refugees to come to New Zealand.
The one-off intake will go "over and above" New Zealand's annual refugee quota, but will not number into the thousands, Prime Minister John Key said this morning.
The move follows domestic and international calls for governments worldwide to do more to help the 13.5 million victims of the biggest refugee crisis since World War II - pressure which effectively forced Mr Key's hand a week after he ruled out further measures until after a review of refugee quotas next year.
This morning Mr Key confirmed he would announce a package to take "over and above our normal quota" of refugees in response to the humanitarian crisis in Europe.
However, he would not go into details about the emergency move until the official announcement later today.
Mr Key confirmed it's "not thousands", and said it would likely be three intakes over two to three years. But he said the number was not as low as 100.
Labour says it will pull its Emergency Humanitarian Response Bill if the Government's response is meaningful.
"We welcome the Government's indications that it will allow hundreds of Syrian refugees into New Zealand as a move in the right direction. This issue is not about politics. It is about doing our best by some of the world's most vulnerable people and acting as the good global citizen we have always been," leader Andrew Little said.
"Labour has plans to introduce a bill to Parliament tomorrow which would allow an additional 750 refugees into New Zealand over the next year. Organisations have indicated to us that with the right resources and political will, this is the number that could be taken in.
"If John Key's announcement this afternoon offers similar relief to these people then there will be no need for the bill, which has significant cross party support. New Zealanders have made it very clear we are a welcoming people, keen to stand up and do our bit. Now is our chance to do that."