Leaders of one of the country's richest iwi have taken a huge pay increase while asking the tribe to cut costs.
Mark Solomon, kaiwhakahaere (chairman) of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, his deputy Donald Couch and their assistant are in line to receive $386,885 between them this financial year, 35 per cent more than last year.
The Weekend Herald understands the runanga - the South Island tribe's governing body - asked its office in December to assess how much money it could save this financial year. The office reported it could cut $262,000 from its $24 million budget.
Robin Wybrow, a Ngai Tahu leader from Wairewa runanga, is angry he has had to find out about the increase through the media. He said it was "appalling" that the smaller runanga who made up Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu were never consulted.
"I'm staggered. It's hard to justify at any time but it's harder to justify in the present financial environment. Many Ngai Tahu are going to be facing job losses, not pay increases. It shows a lack of sensitivity to iwi members who are going to be suffering."
While other large iwi such as Tainui state in their annual reports how much their leadersreceive, Ngai Tahu, which is worth $600 million, does not. Pay structure - and who is getting what proportion of the total sum - is also not mentioned.
Another Ngai Tahu leader said the pay increase was sickening. "Are they embarrassed to have their salaries public? Of course they are - it's obscene."
Last night, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu would not comment.
The spending review does not take into account the tribe's $52 million investment in its cultural centre, The House of Tahu.
Ousted Ngai Tahu Holdings Corporation chairman Wally Stone believes the centre is an investment that is not in the tribe's best interests, given the economic outlook.
The tribe's executive leadership is banking on "significant" sums from further Treaty settlements to guarantee a strong financial future for Ngai Tahu.