Mayor Lyn Patterson among council leaders taking pay cut

1:40 pm on 4 August 2020

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson is among council leaders across the country who will take a six-month pay cut as part of Covid-19 response legislation.

Lyn Patterson.

Lyn Patterson. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

District councillors will discuss a report on pay from David Paris, the authority's finance chief, at its meeting on Wednesday.

Intense lobbying across New Zealand as the pandemic response lockdown hit demanded salary slashes for elected officials.

Central and local government responded with an amendment to local government laws.

Through the Remuneration Authority, a determination to legislation governing pay was rubber-stamped in July.

This saw cuts for elected members earning more than $100,000.

As Masterton's council leader, Patterson earns $122,000 and is Wairarapa's highest-paid local official, and the only representative to fall into the $100,000-plus bracket.

"It's up to the Remuneration Authority, but I haven't heard from a mayor that's impacted that has objected to it yet."

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said lobbyists' calls to make cuts were merely a "placebo" .

Beijen's salary of $92,200 will not be impacted, but he was not in favour of reductions for officials from rural and smaller districts.

"If you make a decrease in salaries, what that's actually doing is putting money back into central government that would be going out to the regions.

"It's a placebo benefit, and actually a negative on the economy of the area of the councils where those members are situated.

"And it all goes back into the government fund, and I doubt you'd see a tax drop at the end of it."

Beijen said local government elected officials in rural areas had actually been underpaid for a long time, and this was being addressed by the Remuneration Authority.

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairperson Daran Ponter will also take a reduction. For the period, Ponter's wage will drop from $174,000 to $165,300.

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Greater Wellington Regional Council chairperson Daran Ponter. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Ponter was re-elected to the council in 2019's elections, and voted into the board chai by fellow members.

The new rules do not need a decision by local authorities, but each council "need to give effect to the determination via payroll action", a Greater Wellington Regional Council spokesperson said.

As well as the mayor's pay, Masterton's councillors will also discuss the permanent removal of the travel time allowances in the district.

Paris' report said the allowance of $37.50 per hour was included for those councils where travel times to attend council meetings were well in excess of an hour each way.

"Masterton District does not have those geographical challenges, so the allowance is considered to not be required," the report said.

The determination on mayoral pay expires on 6 January, 2021.

Masterton councillors meet at 3pm Wednesday at Waiata House.

Temporary reduced remuneration for Wairarapa elected officials:

  • Chairperson, Greater Wellington Regional Council Office: $165,300 [from $174,000]
  • Mayor, Masterton District Council: $115,900 [from $122,000]
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