The Ministry of Health's former chief nurse who quit after racking up a massive travel and expenses bill used tax payer money to charter a yacht it has been revealed.

Mark Jones would be asked to pay back $1250 after chartering the yacht without ministry approval, Fairfax Media reported.

Dr Jones resigned abruptly from the ministry the week before Christmas, leaving the same day.

According to information obtained by Radio New Zealand Dr Jones, the ministry's chief nurse, spent nearly $40,000 over a 16-month period to December, with most other chief advisers and directors spending on average $18,000.

The ministry defended the spending, and said Dr Jones needed to travel widely, but it was understood the overspending was the reason for his resignation.

An investigation into Dr Jones' expenses by the ministry would now be launched following the revelation he chartered the yacht during a meeting with Australian nurse executives in the Bay of Islands in 2008.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the ministry introduced new spending controls last year.

"However, they will immediately review those...and Dr Jones' various claim forms."

Dr Jones had been chief nurse at the ministry for the past five years and was a chief adviser overseeing the profession of 45,000 nurses.

It was understood he was still in New Zealand working as a consultant.

Before taking up the New Zealand job in October 2005 Mr Jones was director of a UK-based national professional organisation for primary health care nurses and other professional groups, such as pharmacists and allied health professionals.