3 Nov 2017

Buller council failed to cut wage bill

3:09 pm on 3 November 2017

By Lee Scanlon for The Westport News

Buller District Council failed to cut its wage bill as planned and employed 10 more staff in 2016/17.

The council is keen on a road from the coast to the Nelson-Tasman region.

Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

The council had 75 staff, which equated to 55.1 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, according to its annual report.

In 2015/16 the council had 65 staff (51.2FTE). The 2016/17 wage bill rose by only $91,000, but the previous year's bill was inflated by extraordinary costs for the chief executive.

Paul Wylie received $400,114 in salary and severance payments. He resigned 11 months short of completing his contract.

The latest annual report reveals the council had budgeted for wages to fall to $4.5m. Instead the bill grew to $4.68m. The council spent the extra $186,000 on more staff, higher pay, and more chargeable time in the engineering department, the report said.

Woman sitting at work desk

Buller District Council chief executive Andy Gowland-Douglas. Photo: ( RNZ/ Tracy Neal )

Seven council staff earned over $100,000 - the same number as the previous year. One employee - presumably chief executive Andy Gowland-Douglas -was in the highest salary band of between $180,000 and $199,999.

Ms Gowland-Douglas joined the council on August 1 last year. She received $176,347 remuneration up to June 30 this year. Twenty-three staff earned between $60,000 and $100,000, four more than in 2015/16. Forty-five staff earned less than $60,000, six more than previously.

The News sought an explanation from council for the increased staffing. Mayor Garry Howard said it was a question for management and referred The News to the chief executive. Ms Gowland-Douglas did not respond to phone calls or emails.

The annual report also shows Mr Howard's remuneration increased to $76,617 compared to $68,970 the previous year. Deputy Mayor Graeme Neylon received $31,920, up from $30,989. The highest paid councillor was Sharon Roche, who received $27,493 (2015/16 - $21,106).

This article first appeared in The News.

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