A group of nine Malaysian women who were denied boarding a flight to New Zealand have been linked to a woman believed to have been engaged in people smuggling.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) border operations manager Karen Urwin said the women had claimed they were travelling to New Zealand for a week-long tour of the South Island.

The women could not give a proper explanation of their plan and also did not have enough funds to support their story.

"As a result all nine passengers were denied boarding to Christchurch as we doubted their intentions," Mr Urwin said.

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"INZ intercepted a husband and wife in Kuala Lumpur as we had reason to believe the wife had previously been engaged in people smuggling outside of New Zealand. It transpired that they were facilitating the travel of nine Malaysian women to New Zealand the next day."

Mr Urwin said was the single largest single offload that INZ had completed and highlighted how crucial information sharing with international partners was to protect the New Zealand border.