Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is quelling fears that Manus Island refugees who could come to New Zealand may pose a public safety risk, saying that anyone approved would be a genuine refugee and properly screened.

And she is denying that she has overstepped the mark in her persistence on the issue, which has received some pushback from Australia.

Ardern has offered Australia $3 million and an option to take up to 150 refugees from Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, where about 370 men have spent almost three weeks in a closed detention centre without essential services.

Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton called the offer was a "waste of money" and said he did not want a situation where "hope" was given to boat people.


It followed a leak of an Australian intelligence report of alleged sexually predatory behaviour from the men on Manus Island, claiming they had been luring young girls as young as 10 into sex.

Dutton has previously confirmed that the men had been accused of 161 offences, including sexual assault, which had been referred to the Papua New Guinea police.

Ardern gave reassurances this morning that any men coming to New Zealand from Manus Island would go through a series of security checks.

"We make sure that whenever we are taking refugees that we screen them ourselves. We make sure they are bona fide refugees," Ardern told Newstalk ZB.

"We make sure that by and large, keeping in mind that people have been through horrific circumstances, that we are making sure we're picking up people of the highest need."

She said the offer was genuine and still on the table, but it was up to Australia whether it was going to be accepted.

Opposition leader Bill English has questioned whether Ardern has pushed Australia too far, given that Australian authorities also protect New Zealand from boat people.

But Ardern rejected the notion that she had overstepped the mark, saying relations with Australia remain strong.