Prime Minister John Key has admitted to getting his numbers wrong and greatly overestimating the number of refugees New Zealand settles.

Speaking on Paul Henry this morning, the Prime Minister said it was important to realise that the number of refugees settled was well above the annual quota of 750.

"Yes, it is 750, but we have family reunification, so the numbers swell to thousands. I think it is 3000 or 4000 off the top of my head," Mr Key said.

After being challenged on that figure by the Greens and other advocacy groups, he said the figure was wrong.


"I was recalling a figure in that region which actually referred to the total number over the full refugee programme, which is a three year programme. In the last three years...around 3500 people were approved to come to New Zealand under refugee-related policies."

New Zealand had taken refugees for resettlement since the end of World War II and established a formal annual quota of 750 places, which had not been increased since 1987.

A private member's bill lodged by Green Party MP Denise Roche sought to increase the refugee quota to 1000, and every other party in Parliament supports an increase in the quota.

Today Ms Roche released figures from Immigration New Zealand which showed that in the 2013/14 financial year a total of 1153 refugees, asylum-seekers and family members were accepted.

That figure included 750 refugees accepted as part of the quota, 334 under family reunification, and 69 asylum seekers.

Mr Key's comments has also poured cold water on earlier statements by Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse that the Government may lift the refugee quota next year.

As well as family reunification, Mr Key said that New Zealand differed from other countries who took more refugees in that the support we gave people settling here was much more extensive.

That included housing, language support programmes and financial assistance.


He said the question was whether taking more refugees would "degrade" the quality of support New Zealand offered once they arrived. Mr Key said he personally felt the annual quota of 750 was about right.

Another topic was evidence suggesting Australian authorities paid people-smugglers to turn back to Indonesia.

Indonesia's foreign ministry says it believes illegal payments were made by Australia to the crew of a people-smuggling boat with 65 passengers.

Initial investigations by Indonesian police, and accounts of passengers given to media, suggest Australian officials paid more than $30,000 in US bank notes to the crew.

People on the boat said they were aiming for New Zealand, and have since appealed to the Government here for help from a processing centre in Indonesia.

Mr Key said there had been no official confirmation, and the issue was a matter for Australia and "I wouldn't critique that, anymore than I would critique Australian tax policy".

"You can make the case [for paying people-smugglers] both ways," Mr Key told the Paul Henry show. "Once a boat gets in your territorial waters, there is nothing you can do."

Mr Key went on to say that a problem with paying people-smugglers was that their actions were "abhorrent".

"It is not my policy, it is not what the New Zealand Government does, it is what they do. And we just don't get into a running commentary on that."