Confusion abounds after vote to adjust councillors’ pay

An Invercargill City Council committee meeting was full of drama and confusion as some councillors did not understand what they were voting for.

A report from the council’s governance and administration manager Jodi Conway was presented at the meeting on Wednesday.

It followed a change to the governance structure of the council — which culled four subcommittees and created two new ones.

Following the decision it was necessary for councillors to redefine the pay for elected members.

The new committees, which come into effect on June 13, would have full decision-making powers and be formed by all councillors.

The total remuneration pool would remain the same at $506,880, but how it was distributed would change.

Councillors voted on the first option presented: a 4.32% increase for councillors, a 10.30% premium for deputy chairmen and deputy chairwomen and 13.10% increase for chairmen and chairwomen.

That meant councillors would earn $38,583 annually, while the chairman or chairwoman and deputy chairman or deputy chairwoman of each committee would earn $48,132 and $42,557 respectively.

The mayor’s remuneration did not change and it was not included in the pool.

During the proceedings, Cr Nobby Clark said he supported the option where councillors would all earn about the same as he believed the workload would not change much.

Cr Lesley Soper and Deputy Mayor Toni Biddle disagreed.

"I believe chairs and deputy chairs should have a premium over and above all other councillors to recognise the significant work ... We made it quite clear in this new structure, we definitely expect the chairs and deputy chairs to do more that may have done in the past," Cr Soper said.

Cr Biddle moved the motion which was passed by councillors; Cr Allan Arnold voted against it and Cr Lindsay Abbott abstained.

However, after the decision, Crs Arnold, Clark and Peter Kett conveyed their disappointment, saying they did not understand the process and thought other options would still be put to vote.

Cr Biddle said she could not overturn the decision as she believed it had been explained carefully.

"We went through the process, but unfortunately people didn’t keep up or did not hear."

She ended the meeting amid complaints from some councillors.

Council chief executive Clare Hadley will now seek approval from the Remuneration Authority for the preferred option.

Darren Ludlow also informed the council Ms Hadley wanted to make a contribution to the community in light of Covid-19’s impact by forgoing $30,000 of her salary over six months.

The money saved would be used to cover costs relating to resources consents and documentation for the Charity Hospital, he said.

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