Are smaller district councils chief executive salaries ripping off ratepayers?
Small town ratepayers are forking out more than $20 each for country council bosses on big city salaries.
Residents in the Wairarapa's Carterton district, with a population of 8900, pay their chief executive the equivalent of $23 each to meet her $205,000 salary.
South Wairarapa District Council's chief executive Paul Crimp also collected $23 for each person in town.
Compare that with Wellington, where city ratepayers put just over $2 each into the pocket of city council chief executive Kevin Lavery in 2016, when he took home $416,160.
Carterton mayor John Booth said the council was very happy with its chief executive, Jane Davis, but he understood that people in the community who might be struggling would find executive salaries hard to stomach.
"There are a lot of demands on people at the top level of councils now. They are experienced and help the district save money through their work, which is why they get paid a bit more."
Up the road in Masterton, council chief executive Dr Pim Borren received a $25,000 rise in 2015 and another $17,000 this year. He now earns $252,000 - almost 10 times Masterton's median wage and about $10 for every person in town.
Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson said that Borren's salary was still significantly below that of others in the role at similar-sized councils.
"We're still very much in catch-up mode compared to the remuneration levels of chief executives in other similar authorities."
Taxpayers Union executive director Jordan Williams said councils should be asking what do they need to pay, rather than saying "let's pay as much as everyone else is paying".
Council chief executives were paid big salaries because they were expected to be held accountable if went wrong, but often they were not, he said.
"Look at Hastings, three people died there [from contaminated water] and the buck should stop with the chief executive. That's why they are paid so much, it was the council's fault and the chief executive has not stood down.
"There is also a problem with chief executives in certain councils around the country not performing and still getting pay-rises."
Hastings District Council chief executive Ross McLeod is on $328,713 which works out at $4.50 per head.
In the south, Christchurch City Council chief executive Karleen Edwards collected just over $1 per person.
Chief executives from smaller councils in Ashburton, Selwyn and Marlborough were all earning around $290,000 each year - which worked out between $8.70 and $6.35 per person.
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