Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has described calls for New Zealand to accept a Kiribati man who has claimed to be a climate change refugee as a "paternalistic, colonialist, white person's response."
Mr Woodhouse made the comment when Green MP Denise Roche asked about the case of Ioane Teitota who has unsuccessfully tried to claim refugee status because of the effects of climate change on his Kiribati homeland.
Mr Teitoa, a father of three, came to NZ in 2007 and is now in custody facing deportation.
Mr Woodhouse said climate change was not a criterion for accepting people as refugees.
"I am not going to apologise for this government's response now and I'm confident future governments will respond appropriately.
Ms Roche said it was an "unusual" response to accuse her of "white person's guilt."
She said she was Maori and believed the Government was simply trying to dodge criticism for failing to address the problems faced by countries such as Kiribati.
Kiribati President Anote Tong has long advocated for the international community to help his country, either by trying to find land for the Ni Kiribati to move to together or agreeing to take in those who wished to leave.
When he was in New Zealand in 2011 for the Pacific Islands Leaders' Forum he joked that Prime Minister John Key could offer up Waiheke Island for his people.
Mr Woodhouse told media he had no intention of intervening in Mr Teitoa's case.
Mr Teitoa had exhausted all his legal remedies and was now liable for deportation "and that's what will go ahead in the near future.
"Climate change was not a criterion for accepting people as refugees.
"I don't believe there's any plans to change that."
He said the government's focus was on mitigation and adaptation.
"Yes, there are concerns about sea level rises as a consequence of climate change. The sort of patronising colonialism that would suggest everybody from those islands would want to flee to New Zealand is far too premature and I think inappropriate."