Aged care providers protesting at Parliament have blamed District Health Boards (DHBs) and the Government for low wages in rest homes.

The picket was organised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) over the additional $17 million set aside for residential aged care in last week's Budget.

The NZNO said if all the extra funding was allocated to pay increases it would only amount to an extra 51c an hour for a caregiver currently on the average rate of $10.85.

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley said wages in the sector were "pitiful" and the high turnover was affecting the quality of care.

HealthCare Providers NZ chief executive Martin Taylor agreed wages were too low.

"However, until DHBs and the Government address the issue, aged care providers will be unable to change the situation on their own...

"You can't give what you haven't got."

Mr Taylor said the Government needed to "compensate the sector" for the impact of the NZNO award agreement.

He said the extra cash injection in the budget was "welcome", but would not address the gap between DHB nurse pay rates and aged care provider pay rates, a gap of up to 50 per cent in some cases.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the Government's position was that "adjustments were possible", which could be expected to be reflected in the salaries of aged care workers.

-NZPA