New Zealand’s acting as prime minister says he accepts Australia’s right to deport convicted criminals, but wants to restore the two countries’ ‘patchy’ relationship.

Winston Peters said a 2001 agreement between then leaders John Howard and Helen Clark, which denied New Zealanders welfare while living in Australia, had thrown relations off course.

‘Things have been somewhat patchy since 2001, 2002 when our great relationship was ended,’ Mr Peters told ABC radio on Tuesday.

He acknowledged Australia’s right to sovereignty on deportations, but said New Zealand should have been more careful in keeping relations on an even keel.

‘We do want the restoration of the relationship we once had,’ Mr Peters said.

‘We both need each other. There’s no time to be playing the senior soldier or regarding us as some sort of add-on in the Pacific.’

It comes as self-styled pastor and New Zealand national Logan Robertson faces deportation after his visa was cancelled over allegedly harassing worshippers at two Queensland mosques last week.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said Robertson was specifically counselled by immigration authorities about his history of extremist rhetoric when he moved to Australia.