The three Western Bay-based councils spent $83.86 million on salaries in the past financial year - an increase of $8.82m on the previous year.
Tauranga City Council paid staff an extra $5.27m in 2015/2016, bringing total staff salaries to $39.6m. Western Bay District Council's salary and wage bill rose from $13.86m to $15.14m, and Bay of Plenty Regional Council salaries rose $2.27 million, from $26.85m to $29.12m.
Tauranga City Council's latest annual report showed wages rose by 15.3 per cent.
Seventy more fulltime positions were added during the year to the council, rising to a total of 556 fulltime equivalent staff.
Senior management staff were paid an extra $282,000 in the year, and $686,000 more than two years ago. Last year, the nine senior management staff earned more than $2m, up from $1.36m two years earlier.
The increase in staff costs was offset by a $6.7m increase in operating revenue, mostly a result of $6.8m in extra rates revenue. Other forms of operating revenue fell.
Tauranga City Council's general manager of people and capability Karen Lysaght said the organisation had been stripped too lean in the past, and staff had been added to keep pace with Tauranga's growth.
"Previous restructuring... put the city at risk in terms of being able to deliver on our community outcomes," Ms Lysaght said.
She said building services received the biggest boost of 19 extra fulltime staff. Building consents issued have risen 63 per cent since 2011/12, with council granting more than 2700 last year.
Thirteen fulltime jobs were added in ICT, nine in finance and procurement, seven in asset delivery and project management with the remainder spread across the rest of the council.
A former director from the Office of the Auditor-General is highly critical of council staffing costs. Larry Mitchell said councils around the country had become "bloated" with excess staff and salaries had increased markedly over the past decade.
"At the moment it's not normal. It's a bit like a blank cheque, and the ratepayers and the rates increases have a direct relationship with payroll."
Both Western Bay District Council and Bay of Plenty Regional Council staffing costs also rose during the year.
Western Bay District Council's salary and wage bill rose from $13.86m to $15.14m.
It paid an extra $1.28m to staff - a 9.25 per cent increase - adding 16 more fulltime employees.
The council said it added seven infrastructure-related staff, five to manage the increase in construction, and three more customer services employees.
The council said staffing decisions were made "primarily to enhance customer responsiveness and to respond to a higher than normal increase in customer requests associated with property related growth within the district".
Bay of Plenty Regional Council salaries rose $2.27m in the past year as the council added an extra 22 fulltime staff and another 18 part-time staff.
Staff salaries and wages grew from $26.85m to $29.12m, or 8.45 per cent.
Spokesman James Graham said 10 water quality and quantity staff were hired during the year. He said a civil defence restructure also brought nine staff into council, as well as one each in procurement, health and safety and legal.