A top New Zealand cricket team wanted to pay its female players like its male ones. New Zealand Cricket said: "Not so fast."

Northern Districts Cricket was set to announce earlier this month that it would give its women cricketers equal pay during this summer's domestic 20-20 double-headers - a rate of $575 a game.

It had gone as far as preparing a press release about it, before New Zealand Cricket stepped in.

The Weekend Herald understands that a senior NZC staffer told Northern Districts that the move was not sustainable. It would affect ongoing negotiations for a Memorandum of Understanding covering women's cricket between the national body and the six major associations, of which Northern Districts is one.

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A source in the domestic game said it had the potential to be a PR disaster.

"NZC is a $60 million business however they refuse to stump up money to pay domestic women players anything despite the Australian and English players getting paid fairly," the source said.

"This is the first time there will be a direct comparison made between men and women – same day, same ground, same game but women get paid nothing. Clearly there are issues here which NZC have not thought through, thinking they were doing the women's game a favour by including them in the first place."

NZC spokesman Richard Boock said the organisation was in the preliminary stages of setting up terms of reference for the new women's MoU, which was likely to cover all professional women's cricket in New Zealand "and usher in an exciting new era for women's cricket in general".

"While there probably have been conversations around how ND's initiative could affect this, NZC would never challenge the autonomy of major associations, or their right to make their own decisions."

Boock said NZC was working on "sustainable" change, including more investment in high-performance and grassroots programmes, and increasing the number of women in governance positions.

Sources said there was major disappointment among some in the women's game, as correspondence was already circulating which detailed Northern Districts Cricket's plans.

The correspondence highlighted the fact that men's match payments for Super Smash games were $575 per player, an outlay of $6900 a game.

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"The Northern Districts Board has committed to paying equal pay for equal work for all the double headers for the Northern Spirit so a total unbudgeted amount of $34,500," the email, sent by Peter McGlashan, said.

"The board have committed to the payment and charged our CEO, Ben MacCormack, to find a way to source funding to recoup the cost through various fundraising means. He is confident the positive PR and widespread appeal of such a gesture will allow him to raise the required funds."

There are a number of double-headers planned during the holiday season, the first in Hamilton on December 22 between the Northern Spirit and Wellington Blaze, and Knights and Firebirds.

It is believed some associations recoiled when faced with the prospect of trying to match ND.

While the ND and Auckland associations are financially secure, the remaining major associations essentially live hand-to-mouth. Even gentle increases in the expenditure column create accounting conundrums.

The issue comes at an awkward juncture. A 2016 report painted a damning picture of NZC's handling of the women's game and was followed by promises of change.

Throw in the celebrations for 125 years of women's suffrage celebrations and the Equal Pay Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament last month and it could not be a worse time to appear to be paying lip-service to that commitment.

Other New Zealand codes have made substantial strides for gender equality this year.

In March it was announced that the world champions Black Ferns rugby players would be rewarded with improved pay deals and annual retainers that could reach $30,000.

In what was thought to be a world first, this year it was announced the Football Ferns players will get the same pay, prize money and image rights fees for international games as the All Whites.

ND wanted to follow suit. They may have to wait.