Council members' pay set to increase

Councillors, mayors and community board members could receive significant pay increases after elections later this year, according to figures in a report released this week by the New Zealand Remuneration Authority.

The authority, formerly the Higher Salaries Commission, has taken two years to conduct a review into how and how much elected members are paid, with input from local authorities.

It recommends changes to salaries ranging from -$17,500 to +$16,200.

For the Central Otago mayor, the pay packet could rise to $83,400, which is almost $13,000 more than in the 2011-12 year.

The councillor base salary will be $17,600 and community board member salaries will be $7000 for Vincent members, $6500 for Cromwell and $3000 for both Roxburgh and Maniototo.

In the 2011-12 year, councillor's total pay packets ranged from $9433 to $26,260. The maximum hourly travel rate will also increase from $15 to $35.

Hearings panel members' remuneration will be boosted by $80 per hour of hearing time, or $100 for chairmen.

With the review, the authority sought to balance recognition of the current economic climate against fairness to elected members and ratepayers.

''We have done this in the awareness that a lack of reasonable remuneration might be an impediment to some standing for election, which clearly undermines local democracy.

''Alternatively, the view that elected members have received significant rises at the expense of services and rate increases, also undermines that democracy,'' the report says. A pool of funds, set by the authority but with individual councils deciding how it was allocated, has been used.

After the coming election, remuneration will be dictated by the authority, which will set base rates for elected members.

A pool of money will be used to pay extra costs to members who take on extra responsibilities, such as chairing a committee, expected to be between 5% and 25% of the base salary.

Salaries for mayors and remuneration for councillors will be based on a size index, developed by the authority, which takes into account the size of a district and the hours of work.

Remuneration for community board members will be based on the population base for the community.

In setting remuneration rates, the authority considered pay packets of those in the private sector and then applied a ''public good reduction'', to reflect the principle of public service.

Typically, elected members' remuneration represents about 0.9% of the average rates bill.

New levels of remuneration recommended amount to an overall increase of $3.1 million (or 8.9%) across 77 regional and district authorities, or $1.17 per citizen, the report says. A final remuneration determination will be released once remuneration of all council's positions of additional responsibility has been agreed on.

The authority will review remuneration every three years, before elections. Every year it will re-evaluate the size indices.

CODC pay
Elected members' remuneration, after the 2013 local elections

                                  Mayor                Councillor base salary
Central Otago           $83,400             $17,600 (10 councillors)
Clutha                       $83,550             $16,500 (14 councillors)
Dunedin                    $142,000           $49,100 (14 councillors)
Queenstown Lakes  $102,850           $29,300 (10 councillors)
Waitaki                     $87,350             $20,200 (10 councillors)

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