More than 80 Auckland Council staff earn over $250,000 a year, new research by a ratepayers' group claims - but the council has taken aim over the accuracy of its figures attached to individual staff.
Figures released by the Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance today say that 48 staff earn more than Mayor Phil Goff's salary of $296,000.
Seven staff at the council earn more than Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose annual salary is $471,000, the alliance claims.
The list collated publicly available information about the pay of staff earning over $250,000, Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance spokeswoman Jo Holmes said.
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The alliance says 71 per cent of those identified on the list are men, including all six of the staff who are paid more than $500,000.
On the list are 24 Auckland Transport employees, 11 from Watercare, six from Regional Facilities Auckland, five from ATEED, and five from Panuku Development.
In an April 17 letter Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town told the lobby group its figures were inaccurate.
The council agreed there was a degree of public interest in the value of senior roles and had earlier provided salary bands - without names - attributable to senior council and CCO roles. The council believed that response met public interest, transparency and accountability requirements.
The ratepayer group published that letter itself to show it had attempted to check the accuracy of its information before publishing.
Holmes said publishing today's "Town Hall Rich List" was "an exercise in transparency and accountability".
"If someone is paid more than a government minister, ratepayers should at the very least know who they are and what they do."
However Town said in the letter that despite the inaccuracies, the council would not be correcting or confirming the salary figures or the names of the people concerned as it would be an "unacceptable intrusion into their privacy".
Town referred to a previous Ombudsman's decision in which a request for specific details about Christchurch City Council salaries was refused, on the basis that privacy issues outweighed the public interest in releasing the information.
"We object to you targeting specific council group employees and pressuring them to release their personal information. We ask you to refrain from doing so and to make any further requests for information through the official and proper channels," Town wrote.
But the alliance told Town that it had collated the figures using publicly available information - it had then taken the extra step of emailing those concerned to ask them if they wished to correct or clarify any information.
"We totally reject your assertion that the Rich List is an 'unacceptable intrusion into [the] privacy' of the individuals listed... These aren't frontline or lowly paid anonymous staff.
"Without exception, those listed are in senior positions," the alliance said.
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The research was undertaken with the help of the NZ Taxpayers' Union, which plans to publish such lists for councils across New Zealand.
Holmes said compiling the list was not easy as Auckland Council and council-controlled organisations provide remuneration "bands" rather than exact salaries. In such cases the alliance had used the midpoint of each band.
"The CCOs also refused to provide exact job titles, meaning some extrapolation was required to match names with salaries," Holmes said.
"So, while we would prefer the council to publicise this kind of information itself with more detail, we are releasing our best effort now in the hope that it will spark debate within the public and around the council table."
Last month Auckland Council bosses said they were taking pay cuts of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent for six months due to the Covid-19 crisis.
Council chief executive Stephen Town said he and the chief executives and board chairs of the five council-controlled organisations would take a 20 per cent pay cut for the next six months, as it was the right thing to do in the current environment.
In addition, council and CCO executives will take a voluntary pay cut of a minimum of 10 per cent for six months, and CCO directors will voluntarily reduce their board fees by 10 per cent for six months.
"We understand how tough it is for many New Zealanders right now. While this won't have a big impact on the council's financial position, it acknowledges that as leaders we need to play our part by showing solidarity with communities and businesses," said Town, whose salary was just under $700,000 in the past financial year.