Northland Regional Council members yesterday gave themselves a payrise -- and at the same time proposed doubling regional rates.

At a council meeting in Whangarei they approved a 4 per cent pay rise for committee chairmen. Later in the meeting they approved public release of the draft annual plan, which proposes lifting the average rates bill from $71 to $135.

Although exact rates figures will not be calculated until the end of June, the council indicates that in the 2005-2006 year it will need to collect more than $10 million -- up from about $5m last year -- from the owners of almost 75,000 Northland properties.

Council chairman Mark Farnsworth has said that of the extra $5m, $3.8m will be for a multipurpose events centre proposed for Whangarei's Okara Park, but only after the annual plan public consultation process.

The stadium would seat 20,000, be available for rugby, league and soccer matches to international level, include a 25m lap pool, conference facilities and other features.

A council survey of 1000 Northlanders found 56 per cent supported the proposal.

If the public does approve the stadium, regional council ratepayers will eventually fund $23.6m over 10 years, with Whangarei commercial ratepayers paying $96 a year, other ratepayers within 50km of the stadium $48 a year, and Northland ratepayers more than 50km from the stadium $24 a year.

The council's draft annual plan also includes a proposed $560,000 Awanui River flood management scheme, and calls for public submissions on investment options for the $23 million raised from the sale of the Northland Port Corporation.

The plan will be available for public consultation throughout May.

Of the pay rise, Mr Farnsworth said councillors had taken the advice of the Remuneration Authority -- formerly the Higher Salaries Commission -- and approved the increase.

The pay of chairmen of the committees of regional land transport, planning and policy, hearings and regional development would now be $47,062, up 4 per cent from $45,315.

Mr Farnsworth is paid $87,284 and has use of a council car, while Jim Peters, the only councillor with no committee chairing responsibilities, is paid $26,900.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE (WHANGAREI)