Bay of Plenty District Health Board has defended spending more than $4 million on external consultants in the past five years.
Information released to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act showed the health board spent $4,702,464.31 on external consultants between July 2009 and June last year.
It spent more than $1 million in both the 2010 and 2014 financial years and between $800,000 and $900,000 each year from 2011 to 2013. Last year's bill for $1.18 million was the highest in the five-year period.
The consultants were used for services such as programme research, workshop leadership, payroll system enhancements, tax and accounting advice, and mediation.
Labour's health spokeswoman Annette King said district health boards spent far too much on external consultants but Bay of Plenty's acting chief executive Simon Everitt said the spending was justified.
"From a human resources perspective, when people with highly specialised skillsets are required for time-limited projects, it is often more cost effective to use consultants," he said. "Recruitment for such specialised positions can be more expensive than hiring staff. We often find that the best qualified candidates will often not apply for short-term roles in any case."
Asked if the spending was good value for Bay of Plenty taxpayer dollars, Mr Everitt said: "The Bay of Plenty [health board] uses a limited amount of external consultants each year.
"Highly skilled external consultants will be used on occasions for projects which are designed to improve the quality of healthcare provided to the Bay of Plenty community."
The board looked at using its own staff and resourcing wherever possible, he said.
"The use of consultants is based on the resources available to complete the project and the nature of the project concerned. Consultants are only used if there is no available internal resource with the required skillset."
However, Ms King believed DHBs needed to have more of a focus on recruiting for long-term positions.