The Government quietly spent nearly $200,000 with polling and market research company Colmar Brunton just months before last year's election.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development said the money was to probe "awareness, knowledge and compliance" with the new healthy homes standards for renters, as well as "research" for its progressive home ownership scheme.
National's housing spokesperson Nicola Willis said the Ministry needed to front up about the spending, especially as the spends were ordered in June and July - months out from the election, at that time scheduled for September.
"It was kicked off right on the eve of the election - that makes it particularly important that the Government is transparent," Willis said.
Both of the spends ran through the election period, finishing in October and November.
Willis was particularly concerned with a $66,000 spend ordered in June for "quantitative and qualitative research" on the progressive home ownership scheme.
The progressive home ownership scheme was announced in July, meaning that much of that spending will have occurred researching a policy that had already been developed and announced.
"I find it staggering that as late as June last year the Government was still researching the policy development of this scheme - this was something that was first flagged in the speech from the throne in 2017," she said.
Answers to written Parliamentary questions say the Government wanted to research "opportunities presented by progressive home ownership schemes, the impact of Covid-19 on the ability to buy, a more granular assessment of likely demand and uptake, and how these factors would lead to the design of the scheme."
The median New Zealand house price increased by more than $100,000 while the research was being conducted, likely having an impact on people's "ability to buy".
Colmar-Brunton is one of New Zealand's most well-known polling and research companies, famous for the 1 News-Colmar Brunton political poll which has been running for more than 25 years.
Despite the Ministry's zeal to find out what people think of its policies, it has been less than forthcoming when answering questions about what the spending entails.
The two spends were included in answers to a select committee review of the Ministry. On July 30, Willis lodged written Parliamentary questions about the spending, seeking to find out more detail of where the money went.
Usually, these should be answered within six working days, but as of August 16, the Ministry had given only interim answers.
It was only after questions from the media, and a letter from Willis to Speaker Trevor Mallard, that the Ministry fronted up about what the money was for, but it still refuses to give a more detailed breakdown.
It now says the information will be proactively released in the next fortnight.
Government use of market research and polling has been controversial in the past. In 2019, IRD was told off by the Auditor-General for an "overly political" survey it conducted on the public's views on globalisation and fairness in the tax system.
The Housing Ministry and Colmar Brunton were approached for comment.