A heated discussion erupted in the Rotorua Lakes Council meeting yesterday when the matter of what they should get paid was discussed. Journalist Kelly Makiha was there to hear the arguments.
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Rotorua Lakes councillors are to get substantial pay rises but they say they have no choice but to accept them.
The rises have been described by newly-elected councillor Reynold Macpherson as "monumental greed", "obscene" and "gouging ratepayers".
Councillors were asked to vote on the new pay rates at a council meeting yesterday.
Macpherson's objection was supported by fellow councillors Peter Bentley and Raj Kumar, although only Bentley and Macpherson officially voted against the rises because of a mix-up at voting time by Kumar.
Macpherson tried to raise his opposition during the meeting but was shut down by meeting chairwoman and mayor Steve Chadwick who said the council had no choice but to accept the pay rises because they were set by a national body, the Remuneration Authority.
A national review last year of how local government members were paid saw the Rotorua Lakes Council's pool set at $714,084.
Background about the remuneration in the council agenda said the whole pool must be used.
"The authority understands that in any community, there will be pressure to keep rates down by paying councillors less and we feel it's important that councils are protected from this pressure," the agenda said.
The allocated pool - which didn't include the mayor's salary - could be divided up by the council however it liked.
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Councillors voted in favour of making the base salary for councillors $55,000, an increase from $52,027.
Councillors also voted in favour of several other increases to base salaries according to their responsibilities.
Bentley and Macpherson voted against the recommendations and when Macpherson asked Chadwick to record the "division" she said the two names could be recorded but not that it was a division.
Kumar then indicated he wasn't for the recommendations but Chadwick said he didn't object when she called for all those in favour "so you can't then change your vote".
The salary changes would see deputy mayor Dave Donaldson's salary increase to $100,000 from $76,031, which included an additional $45,000 above the base salary of $55,000 for being deputy mayor and leading two areas of the council - economic development and sustainable environment.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait and Tania Tapsell's salaries were increasing to $83,042, an increase from their previous salaries of $64,029.
Their salaries included an additional $28,042 on top of the $55,000 base rate for having responsibilities including chairing committees and being leads for different areas of the council.
New councillors Sandra Kai Fong and Mercia Yates' base salaries of $55,000 increase by $15,750 to $70,750 to take into account their roles as deputy chairs of committees and lead responsibilities.
Trevor Maxwell's base salary increased by $15,750 to $70,750 for his role as cultural ambassador and a council lead. His previous salary was $58,027.
Newly-elected councillor Fisher Wang's salary increased by $15,750 to $70,750 for having a council lead responsibility.
Re-elected councillors Peter Bentley and Raj Kumar and newly-elected councillor Reynold Macpherson would receive the base salaries of $55,000, an increase from $52,027.
Macpherson tried to raise his objection to the increases saying they showed a "five-year pattern of increasingly gouging ratepayers".
He said the rates increases coupled with ratepayers' capacity to pay meant the recommended increases to salaries were "obscene".
Chadwick said where Macpherson was coming from was out of order because the amount the council had in its pool was set by the Remuneration Authority.
The only choice it had was how the money was divided up among the councillors, she said.
After the meeting, Macpherson provided the Rotorua Daily Post with his written notes objecting to the council's recommendations.
In the notes he said the pay rises would "signal monumental greed. I beg of you all, please do not support".
The Rotorua Daily Post asked Chadwick for her reaction to Macpherson's statement. In a written response she said: "It's clear to me that Cr Macpherson does not understand the remuneration process for councils. The total remuneration base for councils is externally set to avoid politicking such as I'm seeing now."
Chadwick's statement said she was confident the council had distributed the remuneration levels across the responsibilities of the council to "reflect the capability and contribution of the councillors".