Canterbury councillors say pay doesn’t reflect workload depsite increase

Photo: Supplied by Waimakariri District Council
Photo: Supplied by Waimakariri District Council
Waimakariri district councillors received a pay bump this week, but some elected members say their $55,983 salary doesn't reflect their workload.

The Waimakariri District Council voted to accept a 3.7 per cent pay rise at a council meeting in Kaiapoi on Tuesday.

Councillors say they are grateful for the increase, but also wanted provision for KiwiSaver, ACC payments and incentives to encourage greater diversity around the council table.

The Remuneration Authority sets the pay rises for councillors and mayors across the country, with the latest increase taking effect this week.

Mayor Dan Gordon’s pay increased by $5433 to $152,271, while Deputy Mayor Neville Atkinson will receive $71,940.

Councillor Philip Redmond said anyone thinking councillors took on the job for the money were ‘‘deluded’’.

‘‘To get greater diversity we probably need to double the remuneration.

‘‘It does compensate us, but it doesn’t really consider that it is very close to a full-time job.’’

Councillor Joan Ward said the pay rise was "a welcome little increase, given our workload’’ and rising inflation.

‘‘If anyone thinks being a councillor is really a part-time job they are fooling themselves.’’

As councillors were considered contractors, there was no provision for KiwiSaver and ACC payments were ‘‘quite exorbitant’’, she said.

Cr Tim Fulton said he appreciated the expense allowances, including mileage, which made the role sustainable.

‘‘These provisions should encourage people of all ages and stages in life, whether they are 23 or 73, to stand for council.

‘‘It is important we enable people to be able to take on these roles without impacting on family or their lives.’’

Community board members and chairs will also receive pay increases.

The Remuneration Authority sets the new rates using a system that ranks councils by size, according to population, total assets, total expenditure, socioeconomic deprivation indices and a complex weighting process.

For a mayor, the salary can range from about $59,000 to more than $300,000 in Auckland.

A councillor's salary can range from $14,274 in the Chatham Islands to more than $100,000 in Christchurch and Auckland.

There has been mixed reaction to the pay rises.

Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe said it was the wrong time for his pay bump, but the decision to lift rates was made independently of councils.

In Rangitīkei, councillors who did not have chairing responsibilities were paid under $30,000 a year.

Mayor Andy Watson recently said told Local Democracy Reporting that councillors faced increasing levels of abuse, particularly on social media.

‘‘People don't understand what is required of modern-day councillors, or the scale of the job and how much it has increased over time.’’

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.