Amnesty International says the New Zealand Government will undermine protection for asylum seekers by taking refugees from Australian detention centres.
New Zealand is to take 150 people from detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, as part of its annual quota of 750 refugees.
Amnesty New Zealand said that if Australia and New Zealand are genuinely committed to a regional approach, they need to engage with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to address the reasons refugees get on boats in the first place.
The Refugee Council says other genuine asylum-seekers who would have come through the United Nations resettlement programme, could be disadvantaged.
Spokesperson Gary Poole said the agreement is about helping Australia deal with an embarrassing problem of its own making.
Labour MP Darien Fenton said the prime minister last year described asylum-seekers arriving by boat as queue jumpers and illegal immigrants.
She said New Zealand should learn from Australia's mistakes.
A parliamentary committee in Canberra was told by a refugee advocate on 17 December that asylum seeker boat arrivals in Australia could reached 25,000 - 30,000 in 2013.