Some Wellington city councillors are spending 18 and 30 hours a week on paid employment on top of their role as an elected member.

Some say they shouldn't be criticised for wanting to work hard while others say the job of a councillor can't be done properly in conjunction with other major paid commitments.

Working out how many hours a week councillors spend on the job is a tricky business - the Remuneration Authority notes "many work more than a full-time job in their council role, while others apparently put in minimal effort".

But in large metro councils like Christchurch, Wellington or Hamilton it's more or less accepted a councillor is likely to work up to full time.

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The Herald surveyed all Wellington city councillors asking what paid employment they had and for how many hours a week.

Councillor Iona Pannett reported back saying she spent 30 hours a week with her role as chief executive of Birthright New Zealand.

Last week the Taxpayers' Union pumped out a press release claiming Pannett was "creaming it" in the wake of city councillors voting to increase their base salaries by 28 per cent.

"Ratepayers forking out $111,000 for Cr Pannett's full-time salary should expect her to be engaged in the role, not moonlighting for 30 hours a week running a nationwide NGO", executive director Jordan Williams said.

Pannett, an experienced councillor, said elected members shouldn't be criticised for wanting to work hard.

She considered being a councillor a full time job and did long hours to manage her commitments.

Pannett said she was confident she could do both.

"Single parents work really hard and we should acknowledge that and celebrate it."

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Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons reported she spent about 18 hours a week working as an in-house barrister and solicitor for the NZ Public Service Association.

Fitzsimons said when she was first elected most colleagues had flexible work and commitments outside council.

"I have found it manageable and have never missed a council meeting or workshop", she said.

But Councillor Nicola Young said to do the job properly, councillors could not have any other major paid commitments.

She said the role was a "huge" time commitment with meetings, workshops, papers to read, social media, events to attend and spending time in their wards.

"Councillors make many significant decisions, so we also need time to allow for clear thinking. Every councillor performs their roles differently, but it's certainly no longer a part-time job to be squeezed around other commitments."

Councillor Diane Calvert, who also has no other paid employment, said the role could exceed 40 hours a week when taking into account portfolios and committee roles.

"We have a duty to be a good role model and not over exhaust ourselves with other commitments."

Councillor Simon Woolf said he spent about two to three hours a week on his photography business.

New councillors Rebecca Matthews and Tamatha Paul are tying up their previous employment commitments from before they were elected.

Matthews is serving out her notice at education union NZEI and Paul will finish her role as the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association president.

Councillor Sean Rush, also a new face at the table, said he ran his own law firm but stopped taking on new work to focus on his university studies and now to deliver for Wellington.