Bay councils' staff costs rose almost $3.5 million last year.
Hastings District, Napier City, Hawke's Bay Regional and Central Hawke's Bay District councils all had larger staff salary and wage increases, as shown by their annual reports for the 2015/16 year, totalling just under $3.5m. Wairoa District Council has not yet published its annual report.
Hastings District Council had the largest increase in staff costs at $1.25m - a 4.6 per cent increase on the year before. This increase took total staff salary and wage costs to $28.17m.
Staff salaries and wages comprised of more than a quarter of the council's total expenditure, and more than 40 per cent of its operational costs.
The council also made two severance payments to departing employees - each around an entire year's salary for many workers - of $35,015 and $44,728.
A Hastings District Council spokeswoman said it planned to employ 11 more full-time equivalent employees in the 2015/16 year.
"Council is charged with making best use of ratepayers' funds and does that across all fields, including in the matter of employing staff."
She cited variations such as redundancies and staff numbers being counted on one particular day as factors which affected salary costs.
The Hawke's Bay Regional Council staff wage and salary bill also rose more than $1.2m, but had a proportionately higher increase of 8.9 per cent year-on-year - from $13.8m to $15.04m.
There were 16 more staff employed who earned less than $100,000, and three fewer who earned six figures or above.
A Hawke's Bay Regional Council spokeswoman said the budgeted salary increase for the year was 1.8 per cent. She said three extra positions were made in emergency management, three in planning and five more spread out across the business.
"A significant need for adequate resourcing of both the planning section and emergency management section had become very evident. Other roles reflect the increased work required on a number of key projects e.g. freshwater and the expertise required for that work," the spokeswoman said.
Central Hawke's Bay District Council's personnel costs rose from $3.27m to $3.78m - a rise of 15.5 per cent, the largest percentage rise of the councils.
A spokeswoman said the "main components of the increase ... was a change or correction of coding from one part of council to another". She said many costs were reallocated from other areas and came at no extra cost to the council as a whole.
She noted five changes which increased personnel costs, three of which she said were costs previously accounted for under other expense areas, including other operating expenses and wastewater projects.
However, other operating costs increased $599,000 despite having costs removed, and wasterwater-related payments came in $101,000 over budget. Further questions around these matters to the district council went unanswered.
Napier City Council's staff wages rose 1.7 per cent - about $475,000 - to a total of almost $28.6 million.
The council had 12 more full-time equivalent staff. Five more employees earned between $100,000 and $120,000, two fewer between $120,000 and $140,000, and two more employees earned above $140,000.
Chief executive Wayne Jack said competitive salaries were important in attracting and retaining talented staff.
He said salaries were assessed by an external agency.
"Any changes to remuneration will be managed within current budgets. We believe this is another positive step forward for Napier City Council."
The average public-sector wage inflation figure for the past year was 1.7 per cent, and 1.6 per cent in the private sector, according to Statistics New Zealand. This was the first time public-sector wage inflation had surpassed private sector in more than six years.