The Opposition is labelling the Prime Minister's use of an Air Force helicopter to get him to social events as disgraceful and extravagant.
John Key was flown from Auckland to Hamilton on Saturday morning for the V8 race event and back to Auckland in the afternoon to attend a black tie dinner.
Mr Key's office says the Iroquois was booked on 2 February by staff after concerns about traffic on the day.
They say because Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand was also attending the dinner at an Auckland golf club, protocol meant Mr Key could not be late.
But the Labour Party says the use of an Air Force helicopter is extravagant and not a good look for Mr Key.
Associate finance spokesperson Trevor Mallard says there are times when prime ministers have to use air force transport, but a photo opportunity is not one of them and he called it "extravagant".
The Green Party says it is a disgraceful use of public resources when Mr Key is telling other New Zealanders they need to tighten their belts.
Party co-leader Metiria Turei says air force transport should be used only for serious prime ministerial business - not so that Mr Key can get to photo opportunities.
Ms Turei says Mr Key had plenty of time on Saturday to get from Auckland to Hamilton and back again in a Crown BMW to make his next appointment.
Mr Key could not be contacted as he is in transit to Europe for political meetings and the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey on 29 April.