There have been no intelligence reports that boat-people are targeting New Zealand more since the change of Government, nor any suggestion of a credible attempt by people smugglers to reach these shores by boat, the Government says.

And Andrew Little, Minister responsible for intelligence agencies the GCSB and the SIS, says that the boat-people who Australia says wanted to come to New Zealand probably didn't even know where New Zealand was.

His comments support those of a senior Foreign Affairs official, who told the Foreign Affairs select committee this morning that there was no evidence boat smugglers are targeting New Zealand more since the standoff over Manus Island.

New Zealand has offered to take 150 of those refugees – an offer that Australia has shelved while it focuses on the United States promise to take more than 1000 refugees.​


There was a reported intelligence leak to Australian media that its border officials had stopped four boatloads of asylum seekers who said they were heading to New Zealand and chatter about New Zealand being a more viable destination because of the Labour Government.

Little said that did not mean there had been any credible attempts to make it to New Zealand.

"There were people on those boats who said they wished to get to New Zealand. It's more likely than not that those people didn't even know where New Zealand was, did not know what that journey entailed, and were not credible threats to come to New Zealand.

"It's simply not credible for someone in a rickety old boat - designed for at best two or three days at sea - to say they're going to sail from Indonesia down to New Zealand. I've seen nothing credible to say that is possible."

This morning Jeff Langley, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Secretary, told the select committee about New Zealand's dealings with Australia and PNG over the refugees on Manus Island.

National MPs on the select committee questioned Langley over whether MFAT had been told boat people were targeting New Zealand more since the change of Government.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had been briefed on the reportedly four boats bound for New Zealand, but was unable to say whether they had been stopped recently.

Langley said he understood those four boatloads were historical incidents rather than recent.


"We haven't seen any intelligence that suggests there were recent credible ventures."

He said there had been no intelligence beyond "chatter" that indicated New Zealand was now a greater target for people smugglers than in the past.

"I wouldn't say we've increased our risk. The chatter that we hear with respect to the possibility of mounting ventures to New Zealand has always been part of the people smugglers' business model."

Pushed further on the issue by National's Simon Bridges, Langley said he could not speak for every agency in Government but he had seen no reports New Zealand was at greater risk of a boat people arrival in recent times.

It prompted a frustrated Bridges to say "could I at the risk of being rude ask you then why are you here?"

Langley replied he had been invited to talk about New Zealand's approach to Australia about the offer to take 150 refugees from Manus Island.

National's questioning did not get off to a good start after former Foreign Affairs Minister Gerry Brownlee appeared confused about the distinction between refugees and asylum seekers.

Told about two thirds of those on Manus Island had been approved as refugees, Brownlee asked how many of the remainder had been formally approved as asylum seekers.

Mfat's Bernadette Cavanagh, the Deputy Secretary to Multilateral and Legal Affairs Group, had to explain all people seeking asylum were automatically deemed asylum seekers until they were processed and determined to be refugees by the UNHCR.

Brownlee also asked about reports of sexual offences and other crimes by some at Manus Island and whether any of those could be accepted as refugees in New Zealand.

Cavanagh said any refugees would also have to pass New Zealand's own screening process and anyone who committed such acts was unlikely to get through.

The National MPs also pushed Langley over the pressure Ardern had put on Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow New Zealand to take 150 refugees from Manus Island.

Langley said he had not had had any kickback from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade about New Zealand re-stating its offer to take 150 people, which had stood since 2013. He said while that offer had not been rejected, Australia's immediate focus was on trying to re-settle refugees in the US and working with the PNG government.