The Whanganui District Council will not be introducing a living wage.

After submitters to council's Long Term Plan requested the council look at introducing the $20.55 per hour wage, councillors were asked whether or not they wanted a report on what impact it would have and how it could be done.

But only six of 13 councillors supported considering the wage.

The living wage is based on the cost of food, movements in wages and cost of housing, and its methodology had been verified by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.

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At more than $4 an hour over than the legal minimum wage, some councils, such as Wellington City, have introduced it.

"Obviously it's not going to be entirely applicable in places like Whanganui versus Auckland but it is a national average," councillor Josh Chandulal Mackay said.

He supported it and said councillors owed it to staff to consider it.

"We can put any argument around ideology, philosophy, morals, economics to one side and just vote to receive a bit of information.

"It's simply about saying that people don't deserve a rate at which they can afford to make ends meet but they also deserve a rate in which they can ... actually fully participate in their community."

This time last year the council had 68 - nearly a third of its full ime equivalent staff - paid below the living wage, which was $20.20 at the time.

The council estimated then it would cost $122,000 to implement a living wage.

Councillor Rob Vinsen said the living wage was flawed as people's circumstances were different.

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"If the chief executive chooses to pay someone $25 an hour, I don't care. What I do care about is that he meets that budget that we set here of X million dollars for salaries. I'll let him make the decision."

But deputy mayor Jenny Duncan said a report would allow councillors to make an informed decision.

"There's a whole lot of ways to slice and dice this."

Councillor Helen Craig said it was unfair to ask ratepayers to fund a living wage.

"A living wage is the same amount whether you live in Auckland or Whanganui and to ask our ratepayers who don't get the so-called living wage to pay rates just so our staff [can], based on some philosophy ... I honestly couldn't vote for that."

Charlie Anderson held a similar view.

"What we're asking some of the older ratepayers in this town to do - who in their day probably had one, two, or three jobs to make ends meet - we're asking those people to subsidise the younger ones who have only got one job and want to go play sport on their day off."

Wages should be up to the chief executive, councillor Alan Taylor said.

"I know of no piece of legislation that instructs local government to have anything to do with setting the wages of employees."

Mayor Hamish McDouall did support the concept and pointed to the 2013 median income for the region of $25,000.

"Every single person in this room is earning more than that, for a part-time job I should say," he said.

"It allows people to participate fully in society. That's the intention. That this will allow people to play sport, coach sport ... to actually live a little ... and isn't that was this council should be enabling.

"You know what the minimum wage is? It's 'we would pay you less but we're not allowed to'."

McDouall said others might follow if the council showed leadership.

Kate Joblin, Philippa Baker-Hogan, Chandulal Mackay, Anderson, Duncan and McDouall voted in favour of a report on the living wage.