How much your local mayor and councillors get paid

By Susan Edmunds

What you earn as a councillor or mayor can vary a lot, depending on where in the country you are.

Auckland mayor Wayne Brown is paid almost $300k a year, but local leaders in other areas receive...
Auckland mayor Wayne Brown is paid almost $300k a year, but local leaders in other areas receive significantly less. Photo: RNZ
RNZ has run a ruler over the numbers to determine where the best local government salaries are - and where the pay is not so good.

Auckland was top of the table. Mayor Wayne Brown is paid $296,000 a year and the lowest rate for any councillor was $107,794. The lowest-paid mayor or regional council chairperson was at Kaikoura District Council, earning $86,000.

Some councils listed a salary for a councillor with no additional responsibilities, as well as a minimum allowable remuneration level for councillors. Councillors in Stratford were paid $23,155 if they had no additional responsibilities. South Wairarapa was bottom by the minimum allowable measure, at $18,855.

A full-time worker on the minimum wage would earn just over $48,000 a year.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich. Photo: Peter McIntosh/ODT
Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich. Photo: Peter McIntosh/ODT

Councils in the South 

Dunedin's Mayor Jules Radich receives $172,378, while a councillor with no added responsibilities gets $72,759.

Otago Regional Council chairwoman Gretchen Robertson is paid $152,881 and councillors can expect to get $65,000.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Glyn Lewers is paid $143,734 and the lowest rate councillors get is $45,410.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan receives $120,841 and a councillor gets $27, 234, while brother Bryan Cadogan as Clutha District Mayor takes home $124,638 and a councillor there gets $24,709.

Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher gets $129,041 and a councillor is paid $30,765 - the minimum allowable remuneration.

Gore's Mayor Ben Bell receives $112,010 while a councillor takes home $24,000.

Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark is paid $149,291 and a councillor's basic pay is $42,472, while Southland District's Mayor Rob Scott receives $134,914 and a councillor gets $37,944. 

Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell gets $129, 434, while a councillor is paid $45, 190.

Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan (left) with brother and Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan....
Central Otago mayor Tim Cadogan (left) with brother and Clutha District Mayor Bryan Cadogan. Photo: ODT files

Pay rates to be updated 

Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger is earning $200,000 and Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau gets $183,037.

Deputy mayors received significantly less than mayors. Auckland's was on $162,794 and Wellington's $126,650. In Stratford, where the mayor was paid $107,503, the deputy earned $32,416.

Pay rates will be updated from July 1 and Remuneration Authority chair Geoff Summers said it was in the process of completing work on that determination now.

The way pay was set depended on a range of factors, he said.

A full review had been undertaken in 2018 that highlighted concerns about the lack of remuneration in some areas making it unfeasible for younger people to put themselves forward as candidates.

"There is an enormous disparity in a vast number of variables in local government and we were starting from a base that had no real logic to it. We designed a 'sizing system' that enabled us to compare each council to each other. That system has actually worked rather well in comparison with what was there before."

Summers said for city and district councils, the factors that went into sizing were population, total operating expenditure, total assets and socioeconomic deprivation.

"There is a complex weighting system applied which then establishes a list of all the councils relative to each other."

It would be looked at again in the lead-up to the local government elections next year to apply the most recent data.

"That causes some councils to move up or down in the list."

The 2018 review noted the authority could not take account of individual performance in its pay determinations, saying well-performing elected local government members should not be penalised because others were not up to scratch.

"Within councils, non-performers are often widely recognised by their peers. However, sometimes it is more difficult for the public to identify them because they may have created a high personal profile in local media, not necessarily by being positive and constructive."

The review said this could be addressed through collective work on council codes of conduct through Local Government NZ.

Geoff Plimmer, associate professor in the school of management at Victoria University of Wellington, said the jobs were demanding and salaries needed to be sufficient to attract good people.

"When I looked through the list, I thought they were probably quite well paid for an awful lot of people and not well paid for some."

People who were on high salaries should be delivering to a high standard, he believed.

"Holding people on high salaries to a high standard would be a good conversation to have, whether they are elected or officials."

- additional reporting ODT Online