The Green Party says New Zealand should be proud of its more humane approach to refugees and asylum seekers and should not be afraid of boat people trying to reach our shores.

Her comments follow a report that Australia's Operation Sovereign Borders intercepted four boats of 164 people who were trying to make it New Zealand, according to Australia's Courier Mail.

It suggested people smugglers were trying to take advantage of New Zealand's more open stance, given Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's offer to take 150 refugees from Manus Island and her strong comments on Australia's handling of the situation.

Green Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said New Zealand should be proud of its more humane approach to boat people.


"We are more open and it's something we can be really proud of because we are upholding our values and our law.

"People have a right to escape war and torture. We will process them if they are being persecuted and we will give asylum [if they are found to be genuine refugees]."

Asked about a scenario where people were trying to get to New Zealand and their boat overturned in the Tasman Sea, she said: "That would be tragic, but the answer to that isn't, 'let's keep them in a situation where they are facing torture or war'.

"There's all sorts of things you can do to keep people safe. The answer isn't to keep them from escaping torture."

She accused Australia of "scaremongering".

"The timing aligns with the Manus issue and the fact that we've made Australia look really bad. Australia is trying to divert attention away from what it's doing on Manus Island, which is essentially torturing people.

"Today, it's 'boats are coming to New Zealand, look out' ... whether or not it's true, it's not something we should be afraid. We've always just processed people."

She said Australia's approach was "essentially unlawful".


"But it's also inhumane. They're trying to deter people who are already running away from things like Isis or torture for being gay or blogging about democracy.

"So they've devised things like these detention centres that are more horrific than war and torture."

People smugglers are moving to cash-in on a left-leaning New Zealand, according to Australia's Courier Mail.

Operation Sovereign Borders has turned back four boats trying to get across the ditch.

The paper reports crime syndicates have tried to bypass Australia's tough immigration measures and attempted to send four boats, carrying 164 asylum seekers, to New Zealand.

The Australian Government says their border protection policies are stopping thousands of people arriving in New Zealand. Photo / File
The Australian Government says their border protection policies are stopping thousands of people arriving in New Zealand. Photo / File

It comes as there are fears within intelligence communities that the direction of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been highly-critical of Australia's policy, may be used by people smugglers to encourage desperate people to risk their lives at sea, it says.

The Courier-Mail says it understands that "chatter" has resumed among people smugglers who have pointed to the stand-off between Australia and NZ.

It is not known when the boats were intercepted or what country they started from but it is believed they told OSB they were headed to NZ, the Courier-Mail reported. They were turned or towed back to near Indonesian waters.

In a recent interview with the Courier-Mail, the man in charge of OSB, Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Osborn said people smugglers leapt on changes of governments or ministers to get back into business.

"And it will be spun, whether it is [true] or not, because you'll have people smugglers who will go, 'Right, here's something that has a grain of truth, there's been a change in minister for example, we can spin this that he's a really nice guy, he's left-leaning, like the Greens or whatever, and he'll invite us'," he said earlier this year.

While it has never before been revealed that four boats were turned back, last week Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said New Zealand had been a destination for people smugglers.

"New Zealand is seen, as we know from our own intelligence, as effectively part of Australia by the people smugglers," Turnbull told ABC Radio.

Asylum seekers protesting the closure of their detention centre on Manus Island on October 31 2017.
Asylum seekers protesting the closure of their detention centre on Manus Island on October 31 2017.

"Do you know, we have intercepted and turned back boats which were heading to New Zealand?

"I mean the people smugglers, the only reason New Zealand does not have thousands of people arriving in an unauthorised way on their shores is because of our border protection policies.

"New Zealand is a prime beneficiary from our strong border protection policies."

Ardern is expected to again offer to take 150 asylum seekers from Manus Island when she meets with Turnbull on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit.

Australia's Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm said it would be a bad outcome.

"That's a fatal mistake, literally a fatal mistake. People die when that happens," Senator Leyonhjelm said.

"If these people are taken in by New Zealand it will effectively be a back door into Australia."

National's foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said that if people smugglers viewed New Zealand's stance on boat people as softer, "it may embolden them to embark on the journey with much bigger and better ships".

"The Tasman is a very vast piece of sea and a long way for people to get to safely. "

He did not want to comment on this specific report until it could be verified "as a genuine story".

"There are people in the world who do not respect the right of any country to protect its borders and to determine who should and shouldn't become citizens or residents in that country. The phenomenon of boat people is something Australia has struggled with for quite some years, and over the years there have been various reports of boats determined to come to New Zealand.

"Australia has a terrible problem because of the size of their coastline and proximity to islands to the north, where the distances to travel are much shorter."

When previously asked about if she believed New Zealand was a target for people smugglers, Ardern has said it was "a very difficult one".