The Prime Minister has stressed the importance of preventing people smuggling efforts, after a tanker with 131 people was intercepted by Malaysian authorities, that possibly could have been heading towards New Zealand and Australia.
Malaysian national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said about 130 Sri Lankians were intercepted after authorities halted a modified tanker last week off the coast of southern Johor state.
He said it was intending to go to Australia and New Zealand.
There are doubts that it could have made it to New Zealand, but today Jacinda Ardern said: "Taking a preventative approach to stop it leaving a port is the optimal approach."
"Regardless the capacity of any given vessel, [between Malaysia and New Zealand] is a treacherous piece of water, it risks people's lives and the people who were undertaking that venture need to be held to account, before they possibly lose the lives of those on board."
Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand may not actually be the final destination, instead it may "all be a marketing excericse by repugnant people who are risking people's lives".
Ms Ardern said it wasn't up to her what happened to the people smuggling boats outside New Zealand waters, "but if it were up to me, I would destroy the boats" as soon as someone is convicted.
New Zealand being marketed by people smugglers as a destination "is not new", Ms Ardern said.
"There has been chatter around New Zealand, as there has been chatter around Australia for some time. The fact that we have been used as a destination... this is something that has happened before ."
She said it was important to partner with those overseas "to try and make sure we stop people before they even depart".
"That risks people's lives."