Kiwi could be sent to China if it helped a New Zealand zoo secure giant pandas, Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key said he would be open to the possibility - which has been previously floated - about sending kiwi if it helped close or bring down the price of a deal.

As well as putting up taxpayer money, he could also talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping in an attempt to bring giant pandas here.

"Personally I think NZ will get there...eventually at some point I think a couple of pandas will turn up," Mr Key said this afternoon.

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Wellington City Council is to look at a business case for bringing the animals from China to Wellington Zoo, but one councillor who is opposed believes the project could cost up to $100 million.

Earlier today, Mr Key said he believed the cost would be less than that, but would still be considerable. If the council came up with a proposal the Government would likely commit funds to help out.

"The Government would make some contribution, but not necessarily massive," Mr Key said. "I don't know how much support, and the process is long and slow."

In 2010 Mr Key raised the possibility of a deal with China in which giant pandas would be lent to a New Zealand zoo, but the Christchurch earthquakes the following year put that project on the backburner.

Mr Key said Wellington Zoo had in the past been keen on the idea, but Auckland was not interested.

"Having spent a bit of time on this process I know what's involved, and it's everything from not just the panda enclosure, you actually have to have somebody who comes from China to look after them and feed them a certain sort of bamboo."

Despite those complexities and costs, Mr Key said cities such as Adelaide that had secured pandas had seen massive visitor numbers as a result.

Adding a visit to see giant pandas to Wellington's existing attractions such as Te Papa would make sense, particularly for younger visitors, he said.

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"Pandas do have a remarkable attraction - you would be amazed how many people go to the cities that get them, and that's why they are fiercely sought-after."