New State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes was one of the highest paid public servants when he was Education Secretary but is now promising a "conservative approach" to pay increases for chief executives.

The annual release of the remuneration for public sector chief executives shows
Adrian Orr, the chief executive of the Super Fund, remains the highest paid head, getting $950,000 - $960,000 over the past year - at least $100,000 more than the year before.

The second highest paid was ACC head Scott Pickering on $810,000 - $820,000.

Auckland University's Stuart McCutcheon was the second highest, getting $710,000-$720,000.

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The highest paid chief of a public service department was former State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, who got $760,000 to $770,000 - a sum which included $93,500 in the payout of entitlements on his final day.

The figures show former Education Secretary Peter Hughes was one of the highest earners, getting $630,000. Hughes is now the State Services Commissioner and in his first release of the salary increases for state sector bosses, he pledged to take a "conservative approach" to CEO pay increases.

"We need to make sure we pay well enough to get highly skilled and qualified people leading our government agencies, but we also need to ensure the salaries paid are defensible."

The average increase for the 103 Crown entity chief executives was 3.4 per cent.

Adrian Orr, the chief executive of the Super Fund, remains the highest paid head, getting $760,000-$770,000 over the past year. Photo / File
Adrian Orr, the chief executive of the Super Fund, remains the highest paid head, getting $760,000-$770,000 over the past year. Photo / File

Of the 14 public service chief executives who had salary reviews over the past year, individual pay increases ranged from 5.8 per cent to zero.

The highest earners included Treasury head Gabriel Makhlouf ($640,000), Ministry of Social Development head Brendan Boyle ($620,000) and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment head David Smol ($620,000).

The Auckland DHB head Ailsa Claire was the highest paid of the DHBs chiefs, getting $610,000.

The average increase across staff in the wider public service was 2.1 per cent.

The report shows total remuneration received by Government department and Crown entities' CEOs, including any bonuses, superannuation contributions, and benefits such as extra leave.

Auckland University's Stuart McCutcheon was the second highest, getting $710,000-$720,000. Photo / NZ Listener
Auckland University's Stuart McCutcheon was the second highest, getting $710,000-$720,000. Photo / NZ Listener

The report shows the 26 public service chief executives got an average increase of 1.3 per cent over the past year, taking the average salary to $406,732. That was 5.5 times more than their employees earned.

Most public service CEO salaries are set by the State Services Commissioner while Crown entity boards set their CEO salaries.

Those set by the independent Remuneration Authority include the State Services Commissioner, Crown Law, GCSB, Police, the Defence Force and the SIS.

The State Services Commission also had the highest average staff salaries ($130,951) followed by Defence ($113,345), and Treasury ($112,029). The average salary for staff in the office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet was $100,536.

The highest paid chief of a public service department was former State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, who got $760,000 to $770,000 - a sum which included a payout on his final day. Photo / File
The highest paid chief of a public service department was former State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie, who got $760,000 to $770,000 - a sum which included a payout on his final day. Photo / File