Jacinda Ardern praised for encouraging extra funding to prevent boats of asylum seekers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; migrants arriving in Greece.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern; migrants arriving in Greece. Photo credit: Getty

The Prime Minister is being praised by an opposition MP for encouraging extra funding to prevent asylum seeker boats arriving in New Zealand. 

Jacinda Ardern and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway put pressure on officials to prevent "maritime mass arrivals" in the lead-up to Budget 2019, according to information obtained by Newstalk ZB

It said Immigration New Zealand tripled its bid for Budget funding. The Government's 'Maritime Mass Arrival Prevention' initiative ended up receiving a $25 million boost in Budget 2019. 

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Newshub she believes investment in border protection, in particular work to stop departures at their point of exit, have been inadequate for some time.

"The added investment in the Budget is money well spent to prevent the exploitation of people through people smuggling at the border."

Budget documents in May showed that the extra funding was for "maritime mass arrival prevention" through regional co-operation, intelligence and training additional staff. 

ACT leader David Seymour described the Prime Minister's insistence that Immigration New Zealand bid for more money to deter people arriving on boats as "one of the best calls the Government has made". 

"Given New Zealand's relative peace and security, and Australia's tough line on illegal immigrants, people smugglers will look to us as a soft touch, and we can't free-ride on our neighbour's efforts," Seymour said. 

"Boosting funding to fight people smugglers and stop desperate migrants from drowning themselves is a great move from this Government." 

New Zealand was criticised last year by Australia's former Immigration Minister Peter Dutton who said New Zealand was relying too much on its neighbour to tackle the issue. 

He told The Australian that Justice Minister Andrew Little should "reflect a little more on the relationship between Australia and New Zealand where we do a lot of the heavy lifting". 

Australian authorities intercepted a boat carrying 20 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in May, and detained them for a few days on Christmas Island before flying them back home. 

Following the Budget package announced in May, Lees-Galloway said the extra money for the initiative was justified because there was a real threat of people-smugglers targeting New Zealand. 

It followed a fishing boat, reportedly carrying over 100 migrants, leaving India for New Zealand in January, in the hopes of the passengers being offered asylum.

Lees-Galloway insisted the extra funding was not because of pressure from Australia. 

The extra Budget funding was questioned by Green party co-leader James Shaw who said the money would be better spent elsewhere.