Indian community leaders have warned of a backlash because Indian students are increasingly running into problems including prostitution, crime, and exploitation by employers.
They said too many students were struggling and tertiary institutions and the government needed to take better care of them.
Students spoken to by RNZ complained of overcrowded housing, a lack of job opportunities and poor-quality education.
They said low paid work was common, with many paid only $5 or $6 an hour by employers they said were Indian or Fijian.
The students told RNZ their agents in India had misled them about life in New Zealand and they wanted more help finding work and accommodation.
The administrator of the Nanaksar Sikh temple in Manurewa, Rajvinder Singh, said the temple provided three meals a day and each meal attracted about 100 students.
Mr Singh said many of the students came for religious or community support and some simply wanted a meal because they were finding it hard to make ends meet.
But he said a growing number, currently about 8-10 per month, came for help with serious problems.
"They're getting into gambling, they're getting into drug addiction, they're getting into prostitution," he said.
Mr Singh said many of the students did not understand what they were allowed and not allowed to do in New Zealand.
"They are getting into a lot of trouble with the law because nobody guides them, nobody's telling them."
He said tertiary institutions needed to provide better orientation and more ongoing support for students.
Mr Singh said if nothing was done, there would be a backlash that would hurt future enrolments by Indian students.
"There's going to be a huge backlash from the students - it's already started. And the community, we're getting frustrated, these students are somebody's relatives, are somebody's sons somebody's brothers, sisters," he said.
Sucharita Varma is a director of Sahaayta, a counselling service for ethnic minority groups based in Manukau City.
She said most students arrived with very little money and their difficulties started almost immediately, often with overcrowded housing.
"Fifteen, 20 of them crammed like sardines in a particular place, we've had identity theft, young girls who don't have employment in prostitution, we've had issues with employers paying them $3 an hour, young boys into gambling," she said.
Ms Varma said the service dealt with hundreds of Indian students a year and most were poorly prepared to live in New Zealand.
"We've got some of them dealing drugs, we've got drink driving. There is an absolute lack of understanding of what is the law, what is family violence, what is acceptable."
She said Indian students needed a comprehensive induction programme that explained how New Zealand worked and what their rights were.
In addition, tertiary institutions should have counsellors who were familiar with Indian culture.
Ms Varma said many of the problems were with students who received study visas when English language requirements were much looser.
The Māori responsiveness manager at Counties Manukau Police, Inspector Nga-Wati Chaplow, said the police did not keep figures on crime involving international students.
However, he said the police's local ethnic liaison officers did have concerns about problems involving international students.
Inspector Chaplow said police met international student representatives regularly and provided free seminars on safe driving for foreign students every three months. Counties Manukau police were also working with community groups such as Sahaayta to provide an introductory programme for new students.
Manukau Indian Association president Veer Khar said many students were unhappy because life in New Zealand was much harder than they were led to expect by the agents who got their study visas.
Mr Khar said students were frustrated by the lack of job opportunities, and he doubted that many of those who did find work were paid the minimum wage.
"I think most of the jobs students are getting are underpaid jobs," he said.
Mr Khar said it was important to address students' problems.
"We don't want students to go back and say 'we were in a hell-hole for two years'."
Nearly 30,000 Indian foreign students enrolled in New Zealand institutions last year, up from 12,000 in 2013.
Most of the enrolments were in private tertiary institutions and polytechnics and the growth has been accompanied by problems including abuse of English-language requirements for study visas and visa applications containing fraudulent financial information.
About 40 Indian students have been warned that they could be deported because of fake financial documents in their visa applications, and Indians are among the 380 students who have been retested because of doubts over the standards awarded by their tertiary institution, IANZ.