Finance Minister Bill English has defended big bonus payments and pay rises to the bosses of the newly partially privatised energy companies, saying they were paid below market rates when the companies were state-owned enterprises.

The salary packages of the chief executives of the energy companies have significantly increased, with generous bonus payments, since their companies were launched on the stock exchange.

Meridian's Mark Binns, whose bonus is worth 65 per cent of his salary, got a $690,000 bonus last year and a $740,000 bonus this year.

All three companies have introduced bonus schemes for executives, consisting of share packages as well as the cash bonuses already offered.

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Bonus payments are decided on by the board and are worth 65 per cent of the chief executive's base salary at Meridian and 35 per cent at Mighty River Power.

The annual reports show Mr Binns' total pay went from $1.1 million in the 2012-13 financial year to $1.9 million last year, including the $690,000 bonus.

After a four-year pay freeze, former Mighty River Power chief Doug Heffernan went from $1.3 million to $2.2 million although that was boosted by the payout of a $500,000 "retention" payment he was offered to ensure he stayed in the job until August this year.

Genesis chief executive Albert Brantley stayed steady on a total of about $1.3 million, including a bonus of $334,000.

His board will decide next year whether he will also receive a one-off $300,00 bonus for his management of the transition to a listed company.

Mr English, the shareholding minister, said it was up to the boards to decide on remuneration, but the increases now reflected commercial market rates for CEOs.

"I think it shows that when they were SOEs they were paid significantly below the market rate," he said.

"I think it illustrates that now the companies are partially floated there's a lot more scrutiny on the performance of the chief executives. They do have to be on their toes. They're under tougher scrutiny to perform."

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In its remuneration report, Meridian Energy said that Mr Binns' bonuses were based on the company's financial performance and goals set the year before.

All three companies said it was their policy to give a mix of salary and performance-based payments and to consider comparable payments in the commercial world when deciding on remuneration.

How much they make

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New Mighty River CEO Fraser Whineray is on a base salary of $850,000 with bonuses worth up to 35 per cent of that salary and share packages worth up to $200,000 a year.

Meridian CEO Mark Binns:
2014: $1.86 million - base salary of $1.1 million, bonus of $690,000 and KiwiSaver contributions of $71,500. He has since also received a further bonus payment of $740,000.
2013: $1.1 million - no bonus payments and $42,000 in KiwiSaver contributions.

Genesis CEO Albert Brantley
2014: $1.3 million - base salary of $921,000 and bonus of $334,400, KiwiSaver contribution of $50,235. Board to decide next year if he gets a one-off bonus payment of $300,000 for managing the transition to a publicly listed company. Also has a $160,600 share package.
2013: $1.35 million.

Mighty River Power CEO Doug Heffernan
2014: $2,184,828 - base salary of $1.1 million, bonus of $447,000 and a one-off $500,000 retention payment for agreeing to stay on until August 2014. Also included is $64,721 in KiwiSaver payments.
2013: $1,300,894.