New Zealand Trade and Enterprise spent more than $30,000 on greenstone gifts for its staff last year, new figures show.

The Labour Party said the spending on jewellery was extravagant, but the trade promotion agency said it was a reward for huge improvements in performance.

A review of NZTE's spending over the 2014/15 year showed it spent nearly $34,000 on gifts for its staff. Of this total, $30,060 was spent on a pounamu pendant for each of its 500 staff in June.

In January, 20 staff were also given a total of $1175 in greenstone jewellery at an agency awards ceremony.


Labour's economic development spokesman David Clark said it was a "greenstone giveaway" which raised questions about the agency's spending.

"There's do doubt that NZTE staff are hard-working but jewellery for bureaucrats sets an unfortunate precedent," he said.

NZTE chief executive Peter Chrisp disagreed.

He said an independent review in 2015 found that NZTE had made a "fast-paced and very effective transformation" since a poor review in 2011.

Over that period, annual revenue growth among the export companies it worked with rose from $21 billion to $30 billion.

"High employee engagement was key to those improved measures and to say thank you we presented all our staff with a small pendent carved from a single piece of Ngai Tahu pounamu stone," Mr Chrisp said.

He said highly motivated staff produced better results, and recognising effort was a simple way of motivating people.

The financial review document said that the agency changed its policy last year to only give gifts to staff who had been at the agency for 15 years or more.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said NZTE had a highly dedicated staff who had improved the export sector's performance significantly.

He said it was "laughable" for Labour to claim the Government had been wasteful when it had reduced overall office space and cut the headcount across the public sector.