A pay rise before his exit saw outgoing Watercare chief executive Raveen Jaduram's salary top $800,000.
The board of Watercare increased Jaduram's salary from $775,000 to $815,000 from July 1 last year, defying calls by mayor Phil Goff to put a lid on big salaries for Auckland Council bosses.
The $815,000 salary is revealed in Watercare's 2020 annual report. In a statement, the water company said Jaduram did not receive a pay rise in the new financial year, starting on July 1 this year.
Jaduram left Watercare last week after six years at the helm.
Speaking from Rotorua, where he is holidaying with his wife, Jaduram said his job had never been about the salary, which was set by the board.
"I love what I do and what I did at Watercare. I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said.
But Jaduram did not enjoy the focus on his salary, which he earlier admitted contributed to his resignation in August.
"Every time there was an article or a reference to me, the sub line was 'the person who earns X dollars'," he said.
Jaduram quit following concerns about management and the board's role in planning adequately for the year-long drought, leading to tough restrictions for outdoor water use by households and a frantic $224 million spend-up to boost the city's vulnerable water supply.
The city's dams are currently 66.9 per cent full, compared with the normal figure of 91.7 per cent for this time of the year.
Goff, who was informed of Jaduram's new salary in August last year, said he made it known in strong terms to board chairwoman Margaret Devlin the pay rise was not acceptable and said he would be looking at a group policy for chief executive salaries at the council-controlled organisations (CCOs).
Devlin, a professional director who has at least a dozen governance roles, is paid $104,000 for chairing Watercare.
In June, Goff wrote to Devlin saying he had not seen evidence of a clear strategic plan to deal with the water crisis and said Watercare's drought management plan "does not seem fit for purpose".
Devlin said Jaduram's pay rise last year was the result of independent advice by EY on comparable organisations to Watercare.
She said the board was satisfied Jaduram was paid a fair salary for the scale and complexity of his role.
The release of Jaduram's final salary follows a decision by the Ombudsman to investigate Watercare over independent advice costing $46,000 the board has used to set his salary since Devlin became chair in November 2016.
When Watercare refused to provide copies of the advice under the Official Information Act, including an assessment of Jaduram's performance, the Herald sought a review by the Ombudsman, who decided to investigate the matter.
Watercare has a history of fat salaries, with former chief executive Mark Ford seeking a $1 million salary, according to former board chairman Ross Keenan, who said he laughed at the suggestion and reminded him he was not in the private sector.
When Ford left Watercare for health reasons in late 2014, shortly before he died, he was on a salary of $860,000.
Jaduram replaced Ford on a base salary of $510,000, rising to a possible $586,500. Since 2016 his salary has steadily risen from $605,000 to $815,000.
Jaduram's final salary is 35 per cent higher than new Auckland Council chief executive Jim Stabback ($600,000). Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison is paid $610,000.
A recent independent review of the CCOs, including Watercare, found "in our view, the council needs to have some say about chief executives' pay", saying CCOs are public-sector entities, not private commercial companies.
The review also noted "many expressed surprise that the salary of Watercare's chief executive was higher than that of the council chief executive".
Goff said the CCO review echoed his concerns and the salary of the new Watercare chief executive will be "substantially lower" than that of the outgoing chief executive.