About $215,000 in Government funding was given to groups to use for humanitarian reasons in North Korea over the past eight years - including for a "New Zealand Friendship Farm" - but it was halted last year because of concern about North Korea's nuclear testing.

The funding was revealed in an Official Information Act request by the Taxpayers' Union and showed since 2008, about $215,000 had been given out to humanitarian organisations working in North Korea on projects such as sanitation and food projects.

In a statement, Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee said New Zealand had not provided any direct humanitarian aid to North Korea at least since National was elected in 2008, but a contestable fund of about $30,000 a year was administered from Seoul until late 2016.

"The funding was stopped last year because of concerns over North Korea's provocative actions, including two nuclear tests in 2016."

Advertisement

In the OIA release, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said no funding was given to the North Korean Government, and the scheme complied with the UN sanctions against the country.

Jordan Williams, the Taxpayers' Union executive director, said the OIA release showed that $215,000 in aid spending had been given to schemes owned and managed by Kim Jong Un's regime.

It included funds for fertiliser and tractor-trailer units for North Korea's "NZ Friendship Farm" which Williams said meant it was equipment under the direct ownership and control of the North Korean regime.

"While North Korea wants to wipe Western nations off the face of the Earth, our Government has been diverting taxpayer money to business schemes owned and managed by the regime. It is inexcusable."

The NZ Friendship Farm is also known as the Sambong Co-operative farm and is a 935ha farm in South Phyongan. It includes a medical clinic and kindergarten and is reportedly home to 2,000 people. The main crop is rice.

The funding was given to the NZ-DPRK Society - a group which aims to foster better relations between the two countries and has called on the New Zealand Government to take a neutral stance on North Korea and recommence diplomatic relations rather than siding with the United States in its call for stronger sanctions.

Other grants included funds for trusts to provide utensils and English language training for teachers at orphanages, grants to the International Red Cross for health programmes, and food processing equipment for disabled workers.

The topic of North Korea was raised by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his visit to New Zealand last week, when he met with Prime Minister Bill English and said the US was asking all countries with any links to North Korea to apply pressure to try to halt the nuclear programme underway in the dictatorship.

Advertisement

After the meeting, English said New Zealand had no links with North Korea, so was not included.