New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the number of refugees who are allowed to settle here should be greatly increased.

The Northland MP, who is well known for his opposition to current immigration levels, believes New Zealand's refugee quote should be increased by at least a third.

There is currently an annual limit of around 750 places for refugees on United Nations waiting lists.

"There's no reason, in my view, that we couldn't go to 1000 easily, and do it in a responsible way," Mr Peters said, in answer to a question from a first year politics class at Victoria University of Wellington yesterday.

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After strongly criticising levels of immigration that occurred under both Labour and National-led Governments, Mr Peters was asked by a student whether he differentiated between immigrants and refugees.

"Refugees are totally different to immigration, and I think there is just cause for saying we should revisit our UN commitment of 750," he said.

"But if you are going to run that alongside wholesale immigration, then I am really concerned...look after our own people first. Immigration is being massively abused in this country."

Prime Minister John Key has recently defended New Zealand's refugee quota, after Amnesty International lobbied for numbers to be doubled.

Mr Key said considerable efforts and resources ensured refugees were well settled and supported after arriving here, and that "intensive wrap-around service" was the focus, rather than numbers.

Family reunifications were also allowed, Mr Key said, which meant the quota was actually much greater than 750.

Mr Peters' lecture was on his recent victory in the Northland byelection, which he said was a "seismic shift in the New Zealand political landscape".

"The seeds of National's defeat were in the way they had for so long neglected this electorate," he told the students.

"Our approach was to share that sentiment with the people of Northland wherever we went."