Advocates say paying all staff at Whanganui District Council the living wage would cost just a fraction of the salary of its highest-paid employees.

Living Wage Whanganui's submission to the council's annual plan, heard on Wednesday , says 64 council staff are paid just over the minimum wage ($18.90) and less than the living wage ($21.15).

At that rate "many of the things the rest of us take for granted are not possible", the submission said.

Getting all staff to the living wage would cost the council an extra $105,549, Living Wage Whanganui co-ordinator Marion Sanson said. It was less than a third of the highest-paid staff members' salaries.


The council's June 2019 annual report shows a big pay disparity, with staff at one end toward $400,000 per year but the majority earning less than $60,000 per year, she said.

People on or just above the minimum wage often cannot afford healthy food, secure and healthy homes and medical and dental care. Their children may not be able to buy uniforms or pay for school trips.

Wellington and Dunedin councils both pay all their staff the living wage, Sanson said. The Porirua, Auckland, Hutt and Christchurch councils are on a pathway toward it, New Zealand living wage convenor Annie Newman said.

The submitters said, based on talking to people at the Whanganui River Markets, the community supports the move.

Councillor Alan Taylor said raising the wages of some workers would have flow-on effects for the council's salary budget to keep other wages relative.

He asked what the extra cost would be and Sanson said she would find out.

This would be an ideal time for Whanganui District Council to adopt the living wage, she said, because people came to appreciate essential workers so much during the lockdown. Boosting their wages would also aid the post Covid-19 economic recovery.