Changes are coming in the way Whanganui's mayor, district councillors and community board members will be paid.

The Remuneration Authority (RMA), the body which sets guidelines on levels of pay for elected councillors, is proposing changes to the current funding model and has asked councils for their opinion.

Mayor Hamish McDouall and council chief executive Kim Fell drafted a submission to the RMA and it was discussed at council's meeting this week.

It will be tweaked before being signed off at the council's November meeting.


The RMA is consulting both on how the "size" of a council is set and the method that elected councillors are paid.

The current proposal is that the size of councils is based on population, operational expenditure, asset size, social deprivation and number of guests nights (visitor numbers).

Once these are established then councillors' remuneration will be set by a 75 per cent majority vote by each council.

The McDouall-Fell submission said that all of those issues except population were significant influences determining the responsibilities and workload of councillors.

"An example of this is where two communities of similar population chose different levels of service for an activity.

"A community with a higher level of service, resulting in higher expenditure, is likely to require more governance oversight than a similar service with a lower level of service," they said.

Authorities such as Whanganui, which have significant rural roading assets, need greater priority of council resources which again impacts on councillors' workload.

They agreed with the RMA that the role of mayor should be considered as full-time position and agreed that councils should be allowed to set their members' pay scales.

Mr McDouall said none of his councillors were remunerated enough for the amount of effort they were putting in.

Cr Jenny Duncan said Whanganui had its own particular and complex issues to deal with which included a smaller urban area than some other councils, but a big rural area with difficult country and significant waterways.

She said while the population may be smaller, assets and their maintenance, such as rural roads, continued to have a major impact on council's operation.

Cr Rob Vinsen said councils had traditionally been remunerated on population "but we've always argued that's not a fair reflection of the work we put in".

"Asset size and operational activities are key here," he said.

Mr Vinsen said he still favoured paying councillors more for meeting attendance rather than a base salary and said he believed splitting the remuneration between salary and attendance would work.