Key Points:

Health Minister Tony Ryall has leaned on his ministry to pull the plug on a conference of more than 300 health professionals in Wellington next month on primary health care delivery.

The conference, planned by the ministry and the District Health Boards New Zealand, would have been the third such conference in five years.

It would have cost taxpayers $123,000 and was to have been held from February 24 to 26.

It is the second conference to be cancelled since National took office in November and ordered government department heads to reassess their spending priorities.

Prime Minister John Key warned chief executives at the time that he did not want to see expensive conferences on their books.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett scrapped a $200,000 conference organised at Waipuna Lodge in Mt Wellington, Auckland, by the Families Commission for 150 invited decision-makers and leaders.

The Wellington conference was to have been attended mainly by workers in the primary health care sector such as general practitioners, nurses and pharmacists.

Organisers had booked two overseas speakers and charged a conference fee of up to $790.

Ministry staff said it would have cost $350,000 to run but had attracted $227,000 in revenue.

Mr Ryall said he was concerned at getting the best value for health dollars when he asked ministry chief Stephen McKernan to look again at the conference.

Labour Party leader Phil Goff expressed concerns that Mr Ryall might have interfered for political reasons.

"It appears there are Brownie points to be given to a minister appearing tough and cancelling a conference that will cost some money."

Mr Ryall said Mr McKernan had made the cancellation decision based on the number of registrations and the fact that the Royal College of General Practitioners would be running a conference within weeks of the Government-sponsored one.

"You'd have a large number of people going to both flying up and down the country at a time when health dollars need to be well managed."

Mr Ryall was also concerned that district health boards were not only sponsoring the conference but were paying for staff to attend.

He later said the conference might be held later in the year, a better time for the new Government's primary health care policies to be discussed.

Mr Goff said it would be best for general practitioners and clinicians to use their own judgment about whether the conference would have duplicated the GPs' one.

"Doctors and clinicians are busy people. They don't make conscious choices to duplicate matters that they don't need to go to.

"It may be a case of the minister interfering for political intent rather than for the purported cause that this is not a good use of public money."