Councillors cut their pay

By John Cousins

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Pay rates for Tauranga City councillors are set to drop after they opted against cashing in on a new pay formula to reward effort.

The decision will slash nearly $100,000 off Tauranga's potential rates burden. A new $104,000 pool of money payable to councillors who take on additional responsibilities has been whittled down to $7000 for a saving of $97,000

However, a review of the council's committee structure could see the saving reduced to $92,000 by the establishment of a committee focused on the council's finances.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said he also wanted the deputy mayor to take a more proactive role so the mayor could put more time into "high-level current and future issues".

The new pay formula set by the Remuneration Authority centred on a basic councillor's salary in Tauranga of $69,500, or nearly $4700 less than the current salary. The authority added a pool of $104,000 to reimburse for additional duties which traditionally have been for chairing the main committees and the deputy mayor. However, it did not restrict who should get the money, saying only that the funds must be for councillors who took on significant extra duties.

But in a move that looks like translating into sizeable pay cuts for the post-election council in October, it has been proposed that the chairmen and deputy mayor of the new council will each receive nearly $10,000 less.

The final decision will be up to the new council but it was extremely unlikely it would start the new term by going against the unanimous opinion of the previous council.

Deputy Mayor David Stewart wanted to slash the $10,000 and $7000 premiums for the deputy mayor and chairmen's jobs to a "nominal amount", arguing people took on the jobs because they were interested, not for money.

A move to abolish the premium paid to a chairman was opposed by Councillor Bill Faulkner who said workloads were not shared equally and some did not make the same contribution. Setting his own interest as a chairman aside, he said there was extra work and responsibility and, even if it was being done out of interest, it was still worthy of recognition.

Councillor Rick Curach, who created controversy when he admitted to working an average of 22 hours a week for a salary of $74,000, said the reward for being a chairman was the status.

Councillor Larry Baldock dismissed this as the "dreamworld of an egalitarian society". The fairest thing was when people got paid for their experience and the work they did, and this varied among councillors.

"We are not the same, we will make different contributions."

Councillor Wayne Moultrie said the extra workload of being a chairman was enormous.

Consensus was unanimous not to extend the range of duties qualifying for extra payments.

Mr Crosby said the council had 19 committees, subcommittees, steering groups, advisory groups and special committees and he would be seeking to rationalise these by restructuring. The strategy and policy, projects and monitoring and hearings panel committees would remain. The tangata whenua/council committee would be reviewed in the context of setting up another group to deal with Treaty settlements.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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