How much do your local councillors and mayor get paid?

Photo: Newsline
Photo: Newsline
By Susan Edmunds

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

RNZ ran a ruler over the numbers to determine where the best local government salaries are - and where the pay is not so good.

Christchurch Mayor Phil Mauger gets an annual salary of $200,000, while a Christchurch city councillor with no additional responsibilities gets $117,647.

The lowest-paid mayor or regional council chair in New Zealand was in Kaikoura with $86,000, while councillors there get $27,200.

The chair of Canterbury Regional Council (Environment Canterbury) earns $180,000 and regional councillors get $71,463.

Selwyn's mayor earns $146,861 and councillors get $54,453. Waimakariri's mayor gets $146,838, while councillors get $42,143. Hurunui's mayor earns $113,138 and councillors get $27,729.

Ashburton's mayor gets $132,690, while councillors get $46,274, and Timaru's mayor earns $142,005 and councillors $40,878 (minimum allowable remuneration).

Waimate's mayor gets $104,302 and councillors $28,165. And Mackenzie's mayor gets $88,714 and councillors $28,527.

But 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.

Councillors in Stratford were paid about a quarter as much - $23,155 if they had no additional responsibilities.

Some councils listed a salary for a councillor with no additional responsibilities, as well as a minimum allowable remuneration level for councillors.

South Wairarapa was bottom by the minimum allowable measure, at $18,855.

Wellington city's mayor was earning $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.

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

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

He said the way pay was set depended on a range of factors. 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."

He 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."

He said 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.

It said 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."

It 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."

He said people who were on high salaries should be delivering to a high standard.

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