Australia has considered using a naval vessel to shepherd a boat of asylum seekers across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key revealed yesterday, but he is now assured they won't after agreeing to take 150 of their refugees.

He also indicated that Australia had given New Zealand greater access to intelligence on boat people.

Mr Key reiterated that Australia was receptive to processing any mass arrival to New Zealand in its offshore centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, all in exchange for accepting 150 Australian-approved refugees a year from its annual quota of 20,000.

He said New Zealand got benefit for no extra cost because the 150 will come out of New Zealand's existing annual 750 refugee quota.


"There have been cases where the Australians have considered whether they would help shepherd a boat across the Tasman if [the boat people] were absolutely adamant to do that."

He also said by agreeing to the deal: "We've given ourselves much greater links into the intelligence and ongoing support of that intelligence on the ground that Australia pay for, we've given ourselves an assurance that the Australians won't be looking to shepherd people across the Tasman, and we've given ourselves a chance if we want to use, potentially, offshore processing centres.

"I reckon that's a pretty good deal."