Transport Agency chief executive Geoff Dangerfield draws a salary exceeding that of any other state servant, despite suffering a virtual pay freeze this year.
His salary of between $560,000-$570,000 is revealed in the agency's first annual report, which also discloses that 221 of its other 1360 staff raked in more than $100,000 in the financial year to June 30. Agency chairman Brian Roche, while defending Mr Dangerfield's salary as having been necessary to recruit the best talent to a large and important new organisation, said his chief executive was not in line for a pay rise this year apart from "a very slight increase" covering a superannuation agreement.
He said all Transport Agency salaries were subject to a restraint directive this year in response to poor economic conditions.
Even so, Mr Dangerfield's salary is likely to remain higher than that of any Government departmental chief, including the heads of the Treasury, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development, who were each paid between $550,000-$560,000.
The only state servant to exceed his earnings over the agency's first year of life - from a merger of Transit NZ and Land Transport NZ - was former Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Simon Murdoch.
His annual income was pushed to between $600,000-$610,000 by service entitlements at his retirement in June, and his previous year's salary was about $100,000 less.
State Services Commission figures indicate that Auckland University vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon, who is not defined as a state servant, received a salary in the same band as that of Mr Dangerfield.
Although Mr Dangerfield's salary exceeded the $540,000 to $550,000 paid to Auckland District Health Board head Garry Smith, its top doctor received between $650,000-$660,000 last year.
Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, who has criticised his organisation's transport authority subsidiary for paying more than $100,000 last year to 35 staff and between $350,000-$360,000 to chief executive Fergus Gammie, refrained from commenting on Mr Dangerfield's salary "because I can only answer for what happens in Auckland".
But he was concerned that an enhanced regional transport agency to be set up "at arms' length" from the new Auckland Council would become even more "gold plated" in times of threatened funding cuts to public transport services.