Tauranga City councillor Rick Curach is weathering the storm following the revelation this week that he works less than any other councillor.
At a workshop on councillors’ pay rates on Monday, Rick stated he works 22 hours a week on council business and gets paid a salary of $74,171.
Councillors Murray Guy, Larry Baldock and Tony Christiansen say they work 30-35 hours a week for the same salary.
Rick is saying today that his average takes into account the fact councillors don’t work for about 10 weeks of the year.
“There’s five weeks over Christmas, there’s two weeks during the year which they make sure is free of meetings, and then there is another two or three weeks where just by chance there is no council business,” says Rick.
“So there’s about ten weeks in the year that I actually took off, so that brought down the average hours per week.
Rick says he is annoyed he is being criticised for being honest.
“If I didn’t average it I could add on 20 per cent. I can’t speculate how the others worked out their hours, but I could have thought; ‘Oh well thinking of a busy week, 30-45 hours’.
“I would probably do about 30 hours, but remember for 10 weeks of the year we do no business.”
The work hours are required by the Remuneration Authority, which sets pay levels for councillors.
Each council is allocated an amount which they divide among themselves with committee chairpersons getting extra.
The pool system which has been the way councillors have been paid since 2001, presents some anomalies. Analysis by the Remuneration Authority found a variety of salaries for different councillors and community board members that did not reflect a fair remuneration for the job.
For example Tauranga has ten councillors, a population of 112,600 and a councillor ratio of one per every 11,260 people. Paying the councillors costs $6.68 per head of population.
Christchurch, with 13 councillors, a population of 372,500 and 28,654 people per councillor costs $3.05 per head.
Taxpayers in smaller areas are paying more. Queenstown Lakes has a population of 27,140 served by ten councillors with one councillor for every 2714 people and a cost per person of $12.69.
Wairoa’s councillor cost per head is $17.17, and it has a population of 8420, six councillors with one councillor per 1403 of population.
An alternative being considered is a system where the Remuneration Authority will set a base salary for each councillor for each local authority.
The base salary is likely to be based on the job size and the proportion full time that is assessed as being needed for the position’s responsibilities to be effectively carried out.
The authority says there are about three different job sizes across all local authorities and the proportion of full time ranges from the equivalent of one day a week on average, to the equivalent of four days a week on average.
The Remuneration Authority survey of sitting councillors was specific about what answers were required, says Rick.
They could include meetings and sub-committee meetings they were sitting on, but no Council Controlled Organisations’ meetings where director’s fees were being paid or hearings where the councillors are paid.
Formal meetings with council staff could be included as well, but not informal meetings with the public over council issues.
Councillors attending outside meetings or constituency clinics had to be authorised or delegated to attend by the council. Situations like the Mount Ward councillors attending Papamoa Progressive association meetings are not included. But managing email, mail and phones is included.
Tauranga City Council staff say city councillors spend an average of 10 hours a week in council and committee meetings.
“Which I thought was very generous,” says Rick.
Rick says his fellow councillors need to take a better look, and then perhaps their figures would be different.
“All I did was take a fair look at my hours over a whole year,” says Rick. “I have never been accused of being lazy. I fulfil my duties I have no guilt about not fulfilling my duties, absolutely not.
“The problem is our wages keep going up. We used to only get paid about $30,000 a year and people used to ask what do you do for a job, because it was it obvious it was not enough to pay the bills.
“Back then it was obvious it was a part time job. Then the remuneration authority bolted our wages up and we got rid of about three members. The pool kept going up but the number of councillors was coming down. So our pay shot up.
“There’s a public expectation that when pay reaches a certain level, the public expect that to be a full time job.”
These are the hours Tauranga City Councillors say they work each week, and the pay they receive:
Larry Baldock, 35 hours $74,171; Tony Christiansen 35 hours $74,171; Rick Curach, 22 hours, $74,171; Bill Grainger 45-50 hours $74,171; Murray Guy 30 hours, $74,171; Terry Molloy, 45 hours, $74,171; Wayne Moultrie, 45 hours $74,171; Catherine Stewart, 35-40 hours, $74,171.
Deputy mayor David Stewart 45 hours per week, $84,232; Bill Faulkner 45 hours per week, $81,226. They are both committee chairman.
Mayor Stuart Crosby, 50-70 hours $136,700. Stuart’s salary is set outside the pool.