Twist in vote over councillor pay perks

KATIE CHAPMAN
Last updated 05:00 30/11/2012

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Wellington city councillors have voted to axe their lucrative perks for board appointments - but for their successors, not for themselves.

For the second time this month, the debate came down to a casting vote, and this time it swung the other way, with Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown forcing the amendment over the line last night.

But councillors on the boards of council-controlled organisations - who receive $15,000 a year on top of their salaries - will not face the pay cut.

Instead, councillors agreed that the perks should continue until the end of the current term, in case councillors had existing financial commitments based on their expected earnings.

Last night's vote of the full council overturned the strategy and policy committee's decision earlier this month in which, after another tied vote, chairman Andy Foster used his casting vote to retain the top-up pay. Mr Foster is one of seven councillors on CCO boards.

Positively Wellington Venues board member Paul Eagle was absent for that vote, and last night added his vote in favour of axing the pay packets.

Justin Lester was the only other councillor on a board to vote in favour of axing pay.

Those opposed to the top-up pay say councillors are appointed as council representatives, so are already paid through their salaries.

But those in favour - all of whom are appointed to boards - argue the move would create "two-tier" directorships, in which some board members were paid and others weren't.

The CCOs to which councillors are appointed include the zoo, Positively Wellington Tourism, and Capacity.

Ian McKinnon receives $42,094 for his role on the airport board, and John Morrison $18,000 for work on the stadium trust, but those organisations do not fall under the CCO banner and their pay packets will be considered separately at the start of the next council term.

Ms Wade-Brown said she was driven to ditch the pay top-ups after the Remuneration Authority indicated its position would be that "the closer councillors get to being fulltime, they see a real issue with remuneration" for board appointments.

But Mr McKinnon said councillor appointees were just as liable legally as other board members, and did just as much work, so they should be paid fairly.

"It has been said constantly around this table that being a councillor is a fulltime job. Therefore, if you're on a CCO, that is in addition to the fulltime job."

Cutting pay for some members would create inequality around board tables, Mr Morrison argued. "We should be leaders, not second-class directors."

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Mr Lester disagreed and said the ability to show leadership had nothing to do with pay. "Leadership is about responsibility - it's not then about asking can I have more money to do it, please."

Mr Eagle argued that cutting the extra pay was a small symbol of the council's commitment to cutting back costs.

But Ray Ahipene-Mercer dismissed that argument, saying it was "pathetic" and the council should be looking for big savings.

Mr Foster then moved that all CCO board members' pay packets be cut, not just councillors'. However, while many expressed sympathy with the idea, it lost after councillors said it was unfair on board members who gave up their time.

Even Mr Foster voted against his own motion, saying that raising it was a way to express his irritation.

HOW THEY VOTED

To axe directors' pay: Mayor Celia Wade-Brown; Paul Eagle (Positively Wellington Venues, $15,000); Leonie Gill; Justin Lester (Wellington Waterfront board, $15,000); Iona Pannett; Bryan Pepperell; Helene Ritchie

To keep pay: Ray Ahipene-Mercer (Wellington Museums Trust, $15,000); Ngaire Best (Positively Wellington Venues, $15,000); Jo Coughlan (Positively Wellington Tourism, $15,000); Andy Foster (Capacity, $15,000); Simon Marsh (Wellington Zoo Trust, $15,000); Ian McKinnon* (Wellington International Airport, $42,094); John Morrison* (Wellington Regional Stadium Trust, $18,000)

Absent: Stephanie Cook. At the strategy and policy committee meeting she voted to axe pay.

* These are external boards, and are not affected by the vote.

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Email: katie.chapman@dompost.co.nz
Twitter: @katiechapman28

- The Dominion Post

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