Caring for people in their last year of life cost Counties Manukau District Health Board more than $51 million in 2008.
A study reported in the latest New Zealand Medical Journal says spending by the board that year on healthcare for those nearing death, was 5% of its total budget.
The researchers say 40% of the 2290 deaths occurred in a public hospital, and the average spending per person was $22,300. Cancer treatment was the most costly.
Researchers say that at a time of tight health funding, high-cost medical interventions towards the end of life must be carefully considered.
Health officials say most health spending occurs at the end of a person's life, but there's little information about that in New Zealand to date.
Dr Wing Cheuk Chan, one of the study authors, says the spending is similar to overseas.