Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce has defended the installation of hair straighteners in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's building.

The Labour Party said the taxpayer-funded hair straighteners were the latest example of extravagant spending by the ministry, which has also been criticised in the last week for purchasing a $70,000 stone sign to display outside its Wellington building and a $140,000 display monitor for its reception.

Asked about the hair straighteners this afternoon, Mr Joyce told reporters: "I am reliably informed that it's quite common in both women's changing rooms ? that they do have hair straighteners from time to time."

He said that many people ran or cycled to work and got changed once they were there.


"It's about a $100 or $200 expenditure," he said, before adding: "I'm not going to comment on every single expenditure, I've made that clear."

The minister said the important thing was that MBIE was under budget overall.

"I don't actually class this particular item as one we should be spending time on," he said.

Mr Joyce rejected suggestions that there was a culture of extravagance at the ministry, though he reiterated that he was disappointed in some of MBIE's more expensive purchases.

Labour's economic development spokesman David Clark said he was "intrigued" that Mr Joyce appeared to be defending the spending.

"I look forward to the next one, which will presumably will be hair curlers or who knows what?" he said.

Dr Clark said it was reasonable to provide changing rooms and showers for public servants, but no taxpayer would agree with providing hair straighteners.

Mr Joyce and Dr Clark, neither of whom have a full head of hair, agreed on one point - that they were not well-placed to be commenting on matters related to long hair.