The chief executives of Housing NZ, the Ministry of Education, Tourism NZ and the Accident Compensation Corporation were among those who reaped at least $50,000 more in pay and bonuses over the last year.

Figures released by the State Services Commission show ACC chief executive Scott Pickering was paid $760,000-$770,000, which is $150,000 more than the year before. Housing NZ Corporation CEO Glen Sowry received between $520,000 and $530,000 - at least $50,000 more than the year before. And Education chief executive Peter Hughes got at least $60,000 more than the year before with between $620,000 and $630,000.

Mr Pickering was the second highest paid of all the chief executives behind Adrian Orr, the CEO of the Guardians of the Super Fund who got $830,000 last year. Auckland DHB head Ailsa Claire also had a significant rise - her remuneration went up by at least $60,000 to $640,000.

Other big movers included Tourism NZ chief executive Kevin Bowler (up at least $70,000 to $590,000).

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Adrian Orr, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. Photo / Steve McNicholl
Adrian Orr, Chief Executive of the New Zealand Superannuation Fund. Photo / Steve McNicholl

The figures are for the chief executives' total remuneration, including salary, superannuation contributions, bonuses, use of a car and any extra annual leave above four weeks. In all 11 CEOs across the public sector got more than $600,000 over the previous year.

The State Services Commission said a change in remuneration did not necessarily mean a big pay increase as it could depend on the timing of performance payments or pay periods.

Mr Hughes' pay put him above Treasury head Gabriel Makhlouf whose remuneration was lower than the previous year possibly because a change in the timing of the performance review meant some CEOs' figures only include six months' worth of bonuses. Others whose total remuneration was lower were head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Andrew Kibblewhite, and David Smol at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. In the core public service, 10 of the 23 chief executives got pay rises over the year.

ACC chief executive Scott Pickering: paid $760,000-$770,000.
ACC chief executive Scott Pickering: paid $760,000-$770,000.

The median pay increase was 2 per cent and the highest was 4 per cent. Across Crown entities at which the boards decide on salaries, the median pay increase was 2.5 per cent. Those whose remuneration is set by the Remuneration Authority, including the heads of Police, Defence and the State Services Commissioner, got increases between 1.9 and 4 per cent for the year. State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie's own remuneration was up by at least $30,000 to $650,000.

Mr Rennie defended the pay of CEOs, saying they were in line with other wage increases across the public sector and the chief executives were generally paid less than they would get in the private sector. A survey had shown private sector bosses got a median increase of 7 per cent over the same period.

"How much we pay chief executives requires a careful balance between ensuring we can attract and retain highly qualified and skilled leaders while being prudent ... when spending public money."

However, Glenn Barclay, the national secretary of the Public Service Association, said the figures revealed a large gap between senior managers and other staff in the public sector. "The PSA recognises these are some of the biggest jobs in New Zealand and we know that ratio would be much greater in the private sector but it is hard for our members to look at those chief executive salary levels when they are struggling to get a pay rise."

He said the average pay increase across the state sector was 0.9 per cent and increased industrial action showed the pressure public servants were under.

The State Services report said the average base salary for a chief executive within the public sector was about 5.7 times the average pay of their employees - much lower than in the private sector.

The figures also include leaving payments given to departing CEOs. The largest was former Police Commissioner Peter Marshall, who got $506,000 upon his retirement in mid-2014. A spokeswoman said Mr Marshall was with the Police for more than 40 years.

Former Chief of Defence Force Rhys Jones received a $220,000 payment when he stepped down while the former head of the GCSB Ian Fletcher took away $48,277.

Payday

Chief executives at Government departments and Crown entities:

11 received more than $600,000

Movers*

ACC Scott Pickering:

up $150,000 to $760,000

Housing NZ Glen Sowry: up $50,000 to $520,000

Ministry of Education Peter Hughes: up $60,000 to $620,000

Auckland DHB Ailsa Claire: up $60,000 to $640,000

Tourism NZ Kevin Bowler: up $70,000 to $590,000

*Total remuneration for 2014/15 compared to 2013/14

Rest of public service:

• 7559 staff earn more than $100,000.

• 1308 got bonuses, averaging $3061.

• Highest paid group were managers who earned an average $124,388 a year - up

• 3.7 per cent since the year before.

• Lowest paid group were contact centre workers who earned an average $47,469 a
year - up 1.1 per cent from the year before.