Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the new government plans to review the primary growth partnership programme although he lauded progress that has been made.

While in opposition and as Labour's primary industries spokesman O'Connor was a vocal opponent of primary growth partnerships, arguing they provided government funding for what should be business-as-usual and referred to the PGP as a "slush fund".

The R&D programme was launched in 2010 and the government and industry have invested around $759 million since then in 22 programmes.

There were 16 programmes underway as at June 30. They focus on things like transforming the dairy value chain, precision seafood harvesting, so-called lighter wines, and omega lamb - a lamb with marbled intramuscular fat that is earning premium prices.


"As someone who has consistently criticised PGP, I'd like to acknowledge the huge progress that has been made with the program and with the knowledge that you have gained," he told the Ministry for Primary Industries Food and Fibre Innovation conference Thursday.

However, the government "has a lot of things to invest in and the taxpayer, the pensioner and the paperboy who pay their tax want to see opportunities in the future for the money they spend," he said. "It is essential we spend it in the best way possible."

As a result, "we are going to review the PGP. That's not to chop it off, but we are looking at where we prioritise our spending. We must spend it in the most effective ways," he said.

Still, he said New Zealand's percentage spend on R&D "is pathetic" and until that is lifted the country will "languish."

O'Connor said his original criticism was around the way the PGPs were set up and whether they provided additional benefits for New Zealand and the taxpayer. "I stand by my focus on that return on investment," he said Thursday.

He reiterated work that has been carried out under the PGPs should be "business as usual."

While he accepted that the taxpayer funding had provided incentives for research that might not have been done otherwise "until this kind of research becomes business as usual, we are at risk of falling behind," he said.