Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed she was briefed on renewed attempts by boat smugglers reportedly trying to reach New Zealand, but says she does not believe it is because of the new Labour Government.
Australian officials had leaked intelligence reports that border officials had come across four boatloads of asylum seekers reportedly trying to reach New Zealand, citing the more friendly approach of the new Labour government.
That leak coincided with Ardern's attempts to push Australia's PM Malcolm Turnbull into accepting New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from the Manus Island centre.
Ardern said she had last seen a report one to two weeks ago and could not recall how many boats were involved – but did not believe it was out of the ordinary.
She said the people smugglers would pounce on any excuse to try to sell a destination to potential customers.
"It's fair to say that those who are shrewd enough to try and manipulate vulnerable people and encourage them to pay money to venture onto these dangerous boats will use any excuse to advertise what they are trying to do – be it electoral cycles, be it anything else. There's a number of excuses they will use.
"There have been reports of people who have claimed to be heading to New Zealand for a number of years. So making a connection directly between recent events and that occurrence wouldn't necessarily be a fair reflection of what's been happening for some time now."
She said the updates she had had were a continuation of patterns in the past.
Ardern said there had been no further progress on persuading Australia to take up New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees since she spoke to Australia's PM Malcolm Turnbull on the sidelines of the Apec leaders' meeting and East Asia Summit last month.
Turnbull has said he is focusing on an agreement for the US to take refugees before he will consider others – and is reluctant to take up the New Zealand offer because it would allow those refugees entry to Australia.
The Australian Parliament yesterday debated New Zealand's offer to take 150 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru.
In that debate, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton revealed he had heard intelligence reports that a number of refugees on Manus Island in line to go to the US wanted to go to New Zealand instead.
Dutton denied that Australia was not taking the offer seriously, but said the government would first need an assurance those refugees would not simply end up in Australia.