Councillors say no to Civic pay rise

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 16:02 13/06/2013

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Christchurch City councillors have voted unanimously to oppose plans to give the directors of their embattled insurance company, Civic Assurance, a pay rise.

Council staff had recommended councillors agree to paying more to Civic's directors, who include the council chief executive Tony Marryatt, but there was no political appetite for that around the council table today.

Instead, Cr Yani Johanson moved that the council vote against the proposed pay rise and that it use the opportunity of Civic's annual meeting to express concern and dissatisfaction over the company's responses to the council's above-ground claims and settlements.

He told councillors he had many concerns over Civic Assurance and its annual report, but there had not been enough time to get professional advice and do robust analysis.

"This is not the time for the directors to be getting big pay increases, given the financial state of this company,'' Johanson said.

Cr Tim Carter asked council corporate services general manager Paul Anderson if he had analysed whether Civic was still solvent, to which Anderson replied ''no''. 

Carter asked Anderson whether Marryatt, as his boss, had been involved in his performance review and deciding whether he received a pay rise.

Anderson said he found the question offensive because it was implying he would make a recommendation to councillors that was not in keeping with his professional duty to the council.

Earlier, he had told councillors that if they wanted Civic to have directors of good calibre they needed to pay market rates.

Carter said Civic had made a loss for the past two years and could be insolvent.

"How can we stand here and approve an increase in directors' fees?''

He said it would be inappropriate for Anderson to act as the council's proxy at the annual meeting as he could have to "make a decision about his boss'', which would be wrong.

Corporate and financial committee chairwoman Cr Helen Broughton said Civic had not paid the council $62.4 million for claims that had been settled, and it was costing the council dearly.

Cr Sue Wells said she was comfortable with keeping the directors' fees at their current level, but she was not convinced it was appropriate for the council to raise its concerns about the timeliness of Civic's response to its insurance claims at the annual meeting.  

Marryatt was not at the council meeting as he was tied up in negotiations with the Government over the cost-sharing arrangements for the central-city anchor projects.

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Mayor Bob Parker was also absent for the debate on Civic Assurance as he was dealing with the council's consenting issues.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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