Three of the largest firms have 41 employees on seven-figure salaries.

The number of employees earning pay packets worth more than $1 million has more than tripled at three of New Zealand's largest companies over the past 10 years.

Fonterra, Telecom and Fletcher Building's annual reports show those firms had 41 employees earning seven-figure salaries in the last financial year.

Twenty-six Fonterra staff, 13 of whom were based overseas, were paid more than $1 million in the year to June, up from nine in 2002, according to the dairy co-op's annual report.

Telecom had 10 employees earning more than $1 million in its last financial year (two were overseas-based), compared with just four 10 years earlier.


Fletcher was not paying any of its staff a seven-figure pay packet in 2002 but by the 2012 financial year the construction and building materials company had five staff earning more than $1 million salary packages, four of whom were involved in "international business activities".

Other than chief executives, staff earning more than $1 million are not named.

Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills said many farmers would probably "roll their eyes" at the number of Fonterra staff earning more than $1 million.

But the co-op was an international organisation and needed to secure the very best talent around the globe to ensure its success, he said.

Fonterra's managing director for people, culture and services, Chris Caldwell, said the dairy co-op was a much bigger company than it was 10 years ago and it had to attract and retain the top talent from a "global pool".

It employed 17,300 people, which put the 26 staff earning more than $1 million into context, said Caldwell.

Shareholders Association corporate liaison Des Hunt said remuneration consultants were partly responsible for the growth in top-level salaries that had taken place over the past 10 years.

Inflation has averaged around 2.7 per cent over that period.


Telecom has gone from paying its former chief executive Theresa Gattung $1.8 million in cash and shares in 2002 to the more than $12 million her successor, Paul Reynolds, received during his final year with the company, which included a $3 million short-term incentive payment earned in the previous financial year and $1.75 million termination payout.

New Telecom chief executive Simon Moutter will receive a maximum pay of $3.7 million in his first year, with an additional $750,000 in share rights subject to shareholder approval.

Telecom's annual report also reveals the company paid 2870 of its staff $100,000 or more in the year to June, while 49 employees earned between $400,000 and $970,000.

"Our salary structures have been benchmarked to attract and retain the best talent and our remuneration approach is continually undergoing review to reflect market conditions," a Telecom spokeswoman said.

When the Business Herald conducted its first executive pay survey, which looks at chief executive salaries at New Zealand's largest listed firms, state-owned companies and Fonterra, in 2005 only six chief executives were earning more than $1 million.

In this year's survey, 26 were.