District health boards say a provisional pay deal reached with senior doctors is at the limit of what they can afford.
DHBs and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists have been in pay talks since early February this year.
Both confirmed on Friday that there is a provisional agreement, which DHBs say would cost them $53.1 million over 40 months.
The boards say that if the deal is ratified by doctors, it would give them an increase of about 1% a year over the next three years.
Graham Dyer, the DHBs' head of employment relations, said it is a reasonable but modest amount.
"I think this is at the limit of what we can afford and the way the deal is struck I think works quite well with what we are looking at receiving as far as new money in this next financial year and what we've projected in the two years following that."
The 20 district health boards will give their final sign-off on Monday.
The senior doctors' union said it expects to receive the formal offer on Monday and would make a final decision in about a month following a ballot of members.
The pay talks were marked by union accusations of bullying and mismanagement. In April, doctors rejected a proposal worth $48.8 million that would have given some at least $9000 per year more.