Councillors and mayors across the country are taking "voluntary pay cuts", but some say the move gives nothing back to ratepayers without a law change.
Meanwhile, some have pushed back on calls to slash their pay with Rotorua's mayor describing it as "morally indefensible".
Mayors of smaller councils who have taken a pay cut have hit back on pressure for their councillors to do the same, noting there was now a younger, more diverse group around council tables who had mortgages and families and were earning as little as $50,000 a year.
Local Government elected members do not technically have the ability to reduce their pay, which is determined by the independent Remuneration Authority and set in legislation.
Instead, some are choosing to donate a slice of their salaries to charities to take pay cuts in solidarity with many of their constituents.
Local Government New Zealand is among those calling for legislation to be updated so elected members can reduce their pay in a way that would lighten the load on ratepayers.
"It's important that any changes to the legislation reflect the wide disparity in pay within the local government sector. Many elected members, particularly in rural councils, are paid less than the minimum wage, so it wouldn't be fair to expect them to offer to cut their pay in the same manner as that of a big or even medium city mayor", a LGNZ spokesman said.
Pay levels across New Zealand's 78 local councils vary greatly from more than $290,000 a year for the mayor of the country's biggest city and to just $2000 for some rural community board members.
Local Government elected members do not receive superannuation, sick leave, holiday pay or transition pay at the conclusion of their term.
New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom has personally decided to donate 10 per cent of his salary for the next six months to several Taranaki charities.
But he said it was inappropriate for media or members of the public to pressure councillors into doing the same when there was now a younger, more diverse group around the table with mortgages and families.
"They're earning around $50,000 a year doing fantastic work in our community and often quietly supporting many charity and volunteer organisations."´
Meanwhile, Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel has indicated support for a law change so her income can be "cut at its source" and go towards easing financial pressure on the city council.
"I want to show the organisation that has had our draft budget turned on its head that I'm committed to cutting costs as well", she said.
Dalziel has previously said her salary should be cut by 20 per cent, and she expected the Remuneration Authority would be given the ability to do so once the Government's decisions were made clear shortly.
She said she already gave money to several charities and causes and has no intention of reducing that commitment.
"The point that I have made to my colleagues is that giving more to the charities we already support gives nothing back to the ratepayers."
Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta said she was aware some Local Government elected members have considered taking a pay cut in view of the hardship being faced in their communities.
She said the move would require an amendment to the Remuneration Authority Act and the Local Government Act.
"Work to facilitate this is being actively considered," Mahuta said.
Goff said he was happy to align with ministerial pay cuts of 20 per cent for the next six months. His annual salary is $296,000, meaning a 20 per cent reduction over six months would see him lose $29,600 before tax.
Auckland Council bosses have also confirmed they would take pay cuts of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent for six months.
At Wellington City Council, the mayor, councillors, chief executive and executive leadership team have all agreed to take a voluntary 10 per cent pay cut for the rest of the year.
A pay freeze for the executive leadership team will also be put in place for the first six months of 2021, bringing the total contribution to about $340,000.
But not everyone is on board, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick has described the call for voluntary pay cuts as "morally indefensible".
She said she was "acutely aware of the hurt our community is feeling" and the tough times ahead needed to be reflected in the work programme council set.
"There is a view that remuneration 'cuts' are another way for local government to acknowledge this," Chadwick said.
"Trying to publicly shame or force elected members or council staff into a certain position is morally wrong."
In Tauranga, councillor Andrew Hollis said any legislation forcing elected members to take a pay cut would be "wrong".
"I think every single elected member has the opportunity to donate whatever amount of their salary to whatever charity or back into council coffers if they choose to. We don't really need a law change to allow us to do what we want with our salaries or decide if we want to show solidarity with our communities."
But Local Government New Zealand has indicated councillors paying money back to councils would be a complicated task, particularly around how tax would be treated and how such revenue would be captured.
A law change is considered more simple than 78 bespoke arrangements across each council in the country.
Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs took a u-turn on whether to take pay cut after committing only 7 per cent of his salary to the staff hardship fund.
He later said he would be taking a 20 per cent cut for the next six months.
Briggs earns $469,040 a year, he received a $16,000 pay boost at the start of 2020.
Jason Smith, Northland Mayoral Forum chairman, said Northland councils would not be taking a blanket 20 per cent pay cut, mirroring the Prime Minister, because the Remuneration Authority did not allow for it.
Instead, the forum encouraged its elected representatives to donate to charity, but said there would be no prescribed level for an individual's donations.
In other areas of the country some mayors and chief executives have taken voluntary pay cuts but placed no expectation on their councillor colleagues to follow suit, alongside New Plymouth.
Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins said he was donating 10 per cent of his remuneration to Women's Refuge and a local foodbank.
"I have no expectation that my councillors will do likewise, but I know a number of them will be supporting their communities in different ways."
Hawkins joins his Otago Mayoral Forum members Jim Boult, Bryan and Tim Cadogan, Marian Hobbs and Gary Kircher in donating 10 per cent of their salaries to charities for the next six months.
Waikato Regional Council chief executive Vaughan Payne and chairman Russ Rimmington have cut their salaries for six months by 20 per cent and said it was up to other councillors to make that choice themselves.