Jamie Morton

Jamie Morton is science reporter at the NZ Herald.

Mayoral pay increases 'fair to ratepayers'

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / NZ Herald
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / NZ Herald

Mayoral salaries will climb by an average 3.4 per cent at a time when the Government is pressuring councils to rein in rate rises and debt levels.

But a group representing local bodies says mayors' salaries are comparatively low - and don't reflect the hours they work.

The authority responsible for setting the pay of elected members has also defended the rises it has given, saying they are fair to the mayors and their ratepayers.

The biggest pay rise went to Waikato Mayor Allan Sanson, whose 6.7 per cent pay rise pushes his salary from $104,000 to $111,000 a year.

He is followed by Invercargill's Tim Shadbolt, whose 4.8 per cent rise takes him from from $100,000 to $104,800.

Both told the Herald they had no control over the figures the Remuneration Authority set.

"They determine what is a suitable salary level and it is not appropriate for me to comment on their decision," Mr Sanson said.

Neither of their councils received any increase to the payment pools allocated to them by the authority, which leave it to councils to divide the pool amount s among elected members other than the mayor.

The only council missing from the list was Auckland Council and its leader Len Brown, whose pay is still to be determined by the authority.

Authority chairman John Errington could not say whether Mr Brown's present salary of $240,000 would rise.

Mr Brown's salary already makes him by far the country's highest paid mayor, ahead of Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker, who will make $171,200 next year, and Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown on $161,600.

The lowest-paid mayor remains the Chatham Islands Council's Alfred Preece, who will get $45,948. His eight councillors will receive $64,706 between them.

Kawerau Mayor Malcolm Campbell is the only mayor not getting an increase next year - the authority mistakenly set his pay too high in 2010.

The Government last month announced its Better Local Government plan, which aims to focus councils on their traditional roles.

But Mr Errington said the authority "thought long and hard" about economic conditions and other aspects when it was setting the pay rates.

Other factors included the council's population, assets, expenses, capital value and the size of the mayor's workloads.

"I think when we weigh up all of those things we must take into account, which is fairness to the individual, fairness to the ratepayer, and adverse economic conditions, we are satisfied with the levels we have set."

Local Government New Zealand president and Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said mayors could decide to donate their pay rises.

"But I imagine most mayors probably won't. In terms of the workload and requirement, most would earn every dollar, especially when you look at it in comparisons with chief executives, who can be paid twice or three times more."

Council of Trade Unions secretary Peter Conway said the mayoral pay increases were "not unreasonable".

- NZ Herald

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