New Zealand directors are paid 38.5 per cent less than their Australian counterparts, a new survey shows.
Board chairs in New Zealand fare slightly better but their median fees are still about 36 per cent lower than those of their peers across the Tasman.
The survey, by remuneration consultants Strategic Pay, also found that the proportion of female board chairs in New Zealand was just 15 per cent - the same as in last year's survey - while the ratio of female directors was up slightly to 30 per cent from 27 per cent last year.
Strategic Pay chief executive John McGill said the discrepancy between Australian and New Zealand directors' pay was concerning given the increased demands being placed on directors.
These included greater transparency requirements and public scrutiny, as well as new health and safety legislation.
"Those factors, coupled with the ever-growing influence boards have in determining a company's performance, make it absolutely critical that roles are remunerated at the proper level, to ensure organisations are attracting appropriately qualified individuals."
Strategic Pay compared the fees of New Zealand and Australian directors and board chairs of companies with a market capitalisation between $500 million and $1 billion.
Median fees for a non-executive director in New Zealand were $75,000 a year while their Australian counterparts were paid median fees of $122,000.
Board chairs across the Tasman earned median annual fees of $219,000 while the head of New Zealand boards received $140,000.
McGill did not anticipate the gap would close anytime soon, and if anything it would widen.
"Generally the Australian market moves at a higher rate than us so the gap is likely to increase."
Tourism Holdings chairman Rob Campbell had a different take on the survey's findings.
"The fact is that for any board that you recruit for in New Zealand at the present time, you can find well-qualified people and I'm not aware of any board having an issue in that regard.
"Where I think it does become an issue is when you have a company that is operating in substantial part or even potentially dual-listed in Australia."
In such instances - which were becoming increasingly common - the company would generally need to recruit an Australian director and pay them Australian rates.
"That will tend to drag New Zealand directors' fees up over time as more firms in New Zealand have a significant Australian component," he said.
"I would expect the rates to get closer together over time because more and more New Zealand-listed companies have a significant Australia presence and therefore look to get Australian directors and that will put the rate up."
Meanwhile, Global Woman chief executive Miranda Burdon said while the report's findings were somewhat encouraging, the stark reality was that New Zealand public, private and non-profit sectors were, by and large, still governed by men.
"Out of the 27 industry groups represented, there are only eight sectors where women make up a slightly more acceptable 30 per cent of board composition," she said.
"If that was true for a genuine cross-section of private-sector endeavour, we would be more optimistic, and cheering from the sidelines. Meanwhile, stagnant at 15 per cent, the proportion of women chairs is totally inadequate."
Strategic Pay's survey also found that median fees for New Zealand directors were up 2.1 per cent over the last 12 months.
"This 2.1 per cent figure is a continuation of the pattern we've seen in the last five years, where movements have been similar to overall pay increases across the broader economy," McGill said.