The rise of so-called superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics could make infections untreatable and medical treatment like chemotherapy unsafe.

Briefings to the Health Minister - obtained by the Herald - show New Zealand's official response hit problems soon after its launch.

Deadly "superbugs" resistant to antibiotics are spreading but efforts to protect New Zealanders have been cut back because of a lack of funding.

Documents obtained by the Herald show a five-year "antimicrobial resistance action plan" floundered amidst a $10 million a year funding shortfall. Milestones were missed and it has now been scaled down.

The rise of microorganisms that have become resistant to drugs could make common infections untreatable, and surgery and medical treatments increasingly unsafe. They also pose a huge threat to agriculture, and New Zealand industry is worried climate change could worsen the problem.

Already, about 700,000 people