New laws allowing the mass detention of "boat people" will show New Zealand isn't a soft touch for people smugglers, Prime Minister John Key says.
A bill has been introduced to parliament to change the Immigration Act so that asylum seekers can be arrested on a group warrant instead of individual warrants, and held in a detention centre so they can be processed.
No asylum seekers have arrived on New Zealand's shores by boat and Mr Key says he doesn't have any intelligence information that it's about to happen.
"But we need to be ready, because these people could pose security risks," he told reporters on Monday.
"It may be just a matter of time before they get here."
Immigration Minister Nathan Guy says the bill will be given its first reading this week and passed before the end of the year.
"A mass arrival would likely include people whose identities are unknown or in doubt, so it's necessary to use detention to manage the security risks," he said.
Devonport Naval Base would most likely be used as a detention centre while immigrants were processed and their identity and status confirmed, he said.
"The recent events in Darwin show that New Zealand is a target for dangerous and illegal mass arrivals by boat."
A group of 10 Chinese asylum seekers, reported to have left from Malaysia, arrived in Darwin earlier this month saying they were trying to sail to New Zealand.
They were persuaded it was too dangerous to cross the Tasman and applied for asylum in Australia.