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Company figures show the chief executives now running Delta and Aurora are together paid nearly $1million a year.
Aurora chief executive Richard Fletcher received total remuneration of between $510,000 and $519,999 in 2018-19, while Delta chief executive Mike Costelloe received between $420,001 and $430,000.
Their combined total, of nearly $950,000 a year, was significantly higher than the $560,000 a year paid to former chief executive Grady Cameron, who headed both companies until they split in 2017.
The figures also showed Dunedin Venues chief executive Terry Davies - the man driving the success of Forsyth Barr Stadium and a suite of other venues - received a one-off $50,000 performance bonus.
The payment - an at-risk portion awarded based on performance indicators - helped drive Mr Davies' total remuneration from $350,000-$359,999 last year to $410,000-$419,000 for 2018-19.
Dunedin City Holdings Ltd chairman Keith Cooper said the sums reflected the realities of a "commercial environment".
"We operate in a commercial environment and we're operating commercial entities, so we have to be competitive.
"I would say we do pretty well with the levels we've struck with the quality of the executives we've got."
Aurora, in particular, was operating in a "highly competitive" sector, Mr Cooper said, and faced challenges ranging from the recruitment of skilled staff to its recently booked $11million loss for 2018-19.
The "highly qualified" Dr Fletcher faced a particularly demanding role overseeing Aurora's massive reinvestment programme, Mr Cooper said.
"This is not a maintenance job - it's rebuilding a business."
The extra cost of separating Delta and Aurora and recruiting two chief executives had also been clearly signalled when the change was recommended following a review by Deloitte in 2017, he said.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins yesterday said it was "hard to argue" with the figures, given the volume and complexity of work facing Aurora and the success enjoyed by Dunedin Venues.
Despite that, the city - like others around the world - was facing a "difficult situation".
"Executive salaries, in both the public and private sector, are becoming disproportionately out of kilter with the workers they manage, but who blinks first?
"So long as that's the case, it makes it challenging to recruit high-calibre staff under an alternative framework," he said.
The increases also come just months after DCC chief executive Sue Bidrose was awarded a pay rise of nearly $60,000 - a 14.7% increase, to $444,000 - despite her reluctance to accept it.
Mr Cooper said company salaries in Dunedin remained "at the lower end of the scale", the city's attractive lifestyle acting as an incentive.
"Money is not everything in these roles. People do it for different reasons."
And, while he could understand some in the community would react with horror, "we've just got to comprehend that we're competing for skilled people".
"I think we should be very pleased with the quality we've got."