27 Feb 2014

Dam head's pay rise was to be 'buried'

11:49 am on 27 February 2014

The chair of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council has confirmed the majority of councillors were planning to bury a 29 percent pay rise for the head of the Ruataniwha Dam project in the council's annual report.

In a meeting a month ago from which the public was excluded, the council voted five to four in favour of giving chief executive Andrew Newman a 29 percent rise, taking his salary to $380,000. He was also to get $36,000 in back pay.

The four who voted against the arrangement say it was apparent the other five wanted to keep it secret.

Chair Fenton Wilson has denied there was any attempt to keep it secret, saying it was always going to be made public in the council's annual report in about six months' time. "It's always public information at the end," he says. "It was always going to come out."

Asked if ratepayers can be expected to go through the fine detail of the annual report, Mr Wilson replied probably not.

The four councillors who opposed both the increase and keeping it secret say the council should have been upfront and announced it immediately after it was approved. It was announced on Wednesday after pressure from the four.

Councillor Rex Graham says he was working with the Ombudsman's office to get the increase made public, when the five councillors who supported it agreed to release the information.

"I'm very concerned that this was intended to be kept secret," Mr Graham says. "We didn't want to wait, we just said that this needs to be out in public straight away."

Mr Graham says it's not acceptable for a council to try to keep secret such a large salary increase for a public official.