Should councillors and mayors get pay rises when they are having to cut costs and services to save money?
Mayors are receiving another pay rise while their councils are attempting to slash spending to prevent rates blowing out.
The leaders of Porirua, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt will have their pay boosted by between $4200 and $5400, while Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown's $2000 rise will take her salary to $161,600.
Ms Wade-Brown said she would probably give some of her pay rise to charity and put a portion away for retirement.
But other mayors have defended pocketing their increases.
Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett said he had not decided what to do with his extra $4500, and Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said he had no intention of giving his $5200 raise to charity, as mayors have done in the past.
Remuneration Authority chairman John Errington said mayors could not refuse a pay increase.
The authority must take into account the country's economic situation, which was reflected in lower pay rises in recent years, Mr Errington said.
But the rises come as councils seek to reduce spending in their long-term plans in a bid to keep rates down.
Wellington City Council has said it needs to save $180 million over the next 10 years, largely because of earthquake-strengthening and leaky-building bills.
Ms Wade-Brown's 1 per cent pay rise, effective July 1, is the lowest in the region. But she still claims the third-highest mayoral pay packet, after Auckland and Christchurch.
She said the ratepayer-funded salaries should remain the same for each term. "In effect this is a three-year contract with the people of Wellington."
Neighbouring mayors will get a salary rise of between 3 and 4 per cent, as determined by the authority.
Councils do not have a say on what mayors are paid, but do decide how much the deputy mayor, councillors and community board members are paid from a pool of money calculated by the authority.
That pool remains unchanged for Lower Hutt, Hastings, Napier, Palmerston North, Porirua, Taupo and Whanganui councils in the next financial year.
Councils are currently deciding how to divide the pool of money and have to report back to the authority next month.
Wellington City Council has been instructed by the authority to spend an extra $11,570 on elected representatives' salaries.
It is yet to decide how to divide $1.25m among its 14 councillors and 12 community board members, who receive different rates depending on their workload.
Local Government Minister David Carter was not in a position to comment on mayoral salaries, a spokeswoman said, as he had only held the portfolio for less than a month.
Mr Leggett said the current system should be scrapped and councils should get the power to decide who is paid what.
"I don't think it's great form really to be having such a high increase at a time of restraint when councils are trying to keep their budgets tight and obviously the controversy with chief executives' pay increases."
A review on how local government pay packets are calculated is in the final stages and changes are expected to be implemented before the local government elections next year.
Horowhenua Mayor Brendan Duffy said he did not feel guilty about receiving the rise as he made private contributions to local organisations in his capacity as mayor and as a private business owner. His salary is set to rise by four per cent to $86,100.
Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde will receive a 2.8 per cent rise, taking her salary to $161,900.
- The Dominion Post
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