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HomeNew ZealandDunedin councillors get heated, but pass new pay structures

Dunedin councillors get heated, but pass new pay structures

Dunedin Mayor Elect Jules Radich

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New Dunedin mayor Jules Radich
Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Dunedin city councillors have agreed to a new pay structure which will see two elected members earning less than their peers.

But not before some acrimonious debate in chambers today.

New mayor Jules Radich proposed a new committee remuneration structure for the current triennium, which would have cut the pay of the lowest earning councillors David Benson-Pope and Steve Walker by 11.7 percent.

The pair are the only elected members to not hold a leadership role within a council committee.

The Remuneration Authority rejected the original proposal, raising doubts over how legal it would be if it was allowed to proceed.

A revised pay structure – which bumped up the remuneration for councillors, but a sum still lesser than deputy chairs – was presented at Tuesday’s city council meeting with the agenda item sparking a fierce furore of clashes among councillors and the mayor.

The item needed to be adjourned twice as proceedings became testy.

In an RNZ story on Sunday, councillors Benson-Pope and Walker criticised Radich over the remuneration bid with Benson-Pope describing his actions as “vindictive”.

The new recommendation proposed annual remunerations for officials, including $90,979 for committee chairs, $77,982 for deputy chairs and $72,783 for councillors.

During the previous triennium, the deputy mayor and committee chairs received additional compensation, while all other councillors took home the same pay, $72,851 in the last year.

Under previous mayor Aaron Hawkins, only councillor Lee Vandervis did not have a role as chair or deputy chair, but took home the same pay as those only holding deputy chair roles.

Dunedin City Council

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Councillor Marie Laufiso requested an amendment to the recommendation in which councillors would be paid the same as deputy chairs, a concept she pushed at the 26 October council meeting.

She was outvoted eleven to four.

Councillor Andrew Whiley angrily took aim at some councillors for airing their views on the matter online, describing their behaviour as “abhorrent”

“I’m very disgusted,” he said.

“If some councillors can’t get over the election result, then that’s very disappointing.

“Do not air those views on social media, that’s the most frustrating and disappointing… I find it frustrating that one of those councillors can’t even look me in the eye.”

Dunedin City Councillor Steve Walker

Dunedin City Councillor Steve Walker
Photo: Supplied/ Dunedin City Council

Councillor Walker again hit out at the mayor for not doing his “due diligence” and checking remuneration figures during the previous triennium.

He claimed to have asked for additional responsibilities, including a seat at the West Harbour Community Board at the meeting.

“Unlike deputy chairs, it requires a lot of extra work,” he said.

“Perplexingly I wasn’t offered that despite being the obvious choice.”

Voting against the amendment, Radich said the first two months of the triennium highlighted the need for a three-tiered pay structure for councillors “who did not want to take on any responsibility”.

The remarks ignited a point of order from Walker who asked the mayor to withdraw his comments.

Radich refused to uphold the breach before the meeting was again adjourned for several minutes.

After proceedings resumed, Radich withdrew his previous comments and rephrased.

“When offered a specific responsibility, it was refused,” he said.

Appearing via video link, councillor Benson-Pope described the situation as “messy” and “embarrassing”.

“I have sympathy for newer members, for not knowing the miniscule workload and the elegant title of deputy chair of anything,” he said.

“It’s never about the money, this is about principle.”

There were further heated encounters between councillors Christine Garey and Carmen Houlahan and Walker and Vandervis.

The mayor accepted he was at fault for not checking previous remuneration figures.

The revised remuneration structure was approved to be forwarded to the Remuneration Authority, following a 14 to one vote. Councillor Walker was the sole representative who did not support the motion.

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