Economic development minister Steven Joyce is defending the work of the business super-ministry's 56-strong communications team, but expects numbers to fall.
Joyce last night confirmed that the communications team in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) had swelled to 56, more than any other government department and more than are employed in the entire parliamentary press gallery.
The ministry said today that the number did not include contractors employed in communications-related roles.
Chief executive David Smol said the number would not be large, but he did not have the number to hand.
It also did not include two communications staff who left the ministry as part of the creation of WorkSafe New Zealand, which is now the agency responsible for workplace health and safety in New Zealand, a role previously held by MBIE.
Appearing before the parliamentary commerce select committee today, Joyce said the team had a substantial workload, bringing together four websites as well as writing a large number of reports.
He said there was pressure on to bring the number down over time.
"I've had the discussion with the chief executive to make sure we bring that down over time, and we have regular discussions about [that]," he said in response to questions from Labour MP Grant Robertson.
"There's quite a lot of consolidation that's going on, and the final numbers in that area, and in a number of the other areas, I would expect to see lower over time as that consolidation continues."
Joyce said MBIE had been given a "sinking lid" to operate within, "and I'm comfortable that they're meeting the requirements of that at this time".
His comments came in slight contrast to what the ministry said about the communications team.
Asked why the team had grown by nine in the second half of last year, a spokeswoman said that last year the ministry was "still reviewing its needs across a number of areas as it merged four agencies".