Nearly 200 Auckland Council staff earning over $200,000

4:48 pm on 5 October 2017

Auckland Council and its group of agencies now has 194 staff on salaries of more than $200,000.

The Auckland council building.

The Auckland council building. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

That is 39 more than last year, but the council said the proportion is in line with similar organisations in other parts of the country.

Council chief executive Stephen Town said of staff earning more than $200,000, only 73 were from the council itself, an increase of 18.

The rest were in standalone council agencies such as Auckland Transport, Watercare and the council-owned Ports of Auckland.

"This (73) equates to less than 1 percent of staff earning more than $200,000 and is in line with the Wellington City Council," said Mr Town in statement.

"The increase is for a range of reasons including salary increases which took staff over the threshhold," he said.

Auckland Council has also overspent on salaries again, at $853 million versus a budget of $811m.

The council said $18m of its budgetary overspend was due to adjustments to comply with the Holidays Act and another $11m was the cost of council redundancies, which would produce future savings.

The core council had reduced its staff by 11 in the past year, Mr Town said.

There are more staff earning over $200,000 in parts of the wider council group, such as Watercare Services.

Watercare Services, which runs the city's water and wastewater system, had 2.5 percent of its staff earning more than $200,000, its annual report showed.

That reflected a greater proportion of qualified engineers and other disciplines employed there.

Andy Asquith, an academic researching Auckland Council's first two terms, said the organisation was a "tight ship". He did not see the salary levels as a concern.

While a salary of $200,000 plus was not peanuts, it was far lower than would be paid for similar roles in the private sector, he said, and there were risks in not being able to pay good staff properly.

"The best example close to Auckland is what happened in Kaipara, where I would argue that because they didn't have the ability to pay salaries to attract people of the right calibre they got themselves into the whole hoo-ha about the wastewater fiasco at Mangawhai," he said.

The Mangawhai sewerage scheme blew out, unbeknown to ratepayers, from $20 million to $60m.

The Auditor-General's Office later made a $5.38m payment to the council and apologised to ratepayers for failing to spot errors in accounts.