Resentment builds over councillor's hourly rate

By John Cousins of the Bay of Plenty Times -
Tauranga City Councillor Rick Curach. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Tauranga City Councillor Rick Curach. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

Fallout over a Tauranga city councillor's pay continues after a survey revealed deep resentment among ratepayers.

It follows councillor Rick Curach's admission that he worked an average of 22 hours a week for a salary of $74,000.

During a Bay of Plenty Times survey of 50 Tauranga residents, not a single person responded that they found this acceptable. Instead, 42 of the 50 (84 per cent) declared they found it unacceptable, seven said they were unsure and one person had no opinion.

The survey, done on the basis that residents were not named, covered all suburbs in the city, with 34 of the respondents being women.

It quickly became clear that most people were dismayed at Cr Curach's workload compared with his salary.

Comments included "gosh that sounds a lot"; "he should honour his salary"; "for crying out loud, it is ridiculous"; "I think it is disgusting"; "I don't think he can be representing us in the best way he could for 22 hours a week"; "it is his full-time job - he should be doing more hours that that".

Others were astounded when compared with how much they were earning for much longer hours.

"It is not acceptable at all. I would need to work 60 hours a week for that," said one surveyed.

One woman resented it, but said she felt that Cr Curach was at least being honest.

Nearly all the seven "unsures" were people who felt they were unable to judge the efficiency of Mr Curach and whether he was achieving all he needed in just 22 hours.

Responses included: "We need to see what he does for the money"; "it depends on what he does for the 22 hours, if he works his butt off it would be acceptable, it is all about what he achieves rather than how much time it takes to achieve it"; "he is probably the most honest, I do think councillors are paid too much for what they do."

Mr Curach said he was not surprised at the results of the survey, particularly in the current economic climate.

"People do want value for money ... the public don't like public figures being paid too much.

"I don't mind working, I really don't. I would put more effort into it as long as it made a difference," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Cr Curach said he had accurately assessed his workload on the basis that the Remuneration Authority needed data it could rely on. The request for hours worked was made by the authority because it was planning to set a base salary for New Zealand's councillors.

"If most of us are doing 22 hours, which I feel we are, then the Remuneration Authority would lower the base salary. If it comes out that councillors are doing 40 hours a week, then their pay will remain the same."

Mr Curach said the different estimates worked by councillors indicated to him that councillors had not compared apples with apples in so far as what they had included in their hours.

He referred to the parameters set down by the Remuneration Authority on which it had asked councillors to base their calculations.

Cr Curach said if other councillors had done their numbers the way he did them, then the hours worked would not be that far apart. He suspected that the figures from some other councillors were off the top of their head.

"I did the exercise as per what was required, and came up with 22," he said.

Asked if he was going to make an effort to work longer hours, Mr Curach responded that he fulfilled his duties as set out. "What do I do, go and knock on people's doors?"

He said he absolutely would work longer hours, but did not want to waste his time. "If there are important things that I could do that would make a difference, then I would put more hours into these things."

Cr Curach said he did not buy into the argument that he was more efficient than other councillors.

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