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Talking money . . .Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks has received a pay rise. PHOTO: MARGARET PHILLIPS

The Gore District Council’s two top-earning employees are earning salaries on par with those of similar-sized rural local bodies.

A newly released Taxpayers’ Union ratepayers report shows Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks’ annual remuneration sits at $79,286, and that of chief executive Steve Parry’s is $257,976.

But Mr Hicks said his salary was actually $73,795. He believed the ratepayers report had included the portion of running costs paid for the mayor’s own car.

Based on the mayor’s figures, he had received a pay increase of $1234.

Taxpayers’ Union local government researcher Garrick Wright said the mayoral calculations included the base salary and then any other benefits such as vehicle allowances.

Remuneration packages for mayors and councillors are set by the Remuneration Authority.

Mr Hicks is in his fifth term as mayor, and when he decided to leave his job as a store manager at the start of his first term in 2004 and commit to being a full-time mayor he took quite a step down in pay, he said.

When calculating remuneration, the authority took into account factors such as geographical size and population, he said.

The authority had fine-tuned the way it calculated remuneration over the years.

“I don’t think it’s perfect, but I think it’s better than it’s been in the past.”

Mr Hicks said his main aim was to serve the community.

“I know in my case, and councillors’ cases, we want to make a difference.

“If you want to make a fortune it’s probably not the way to go.”

Mr Hicks’ remuneration package also included the council contributing to the running cost of a vehicle.

Mr Hicks owns his car but the council paid for running costs and an amount was taken off his salary to pay for his personal use of the vehicle. That amount was about $5000, he said.

The chief executive’s remuneration was reviewed by a councillor committee with the help of an external consultant.

That committee reviewed aspects such as performance and remuneration.

Once the committee came up with a recommendation it was considered by the full council.

“Steve is a long-term CEO, he’s a high-performing chief executive in the council’s view and certainly in my view,” Mr Hicks said.

The average annual remuneration for councillors is $19,155, and the average rural rate of remuneration sits higher, on $21,476.

The Gore District Council has 11 councillors plus the mayor.

The Gore district has a population of 12,450 with 6049 ratepayers over an area of 1254sq km.

The council’s residential rates average is set at $2286. The average for rural councils is $2161, and the national average is $2304.

Gore and District Senior Citizens president Brian Kelly said Mr Parry’s remuneration reflected the fact he had been in the position long-term and had obtained a law degree when working at the council.

Mr Kelly said Mr Parry had a high level of expertise.

As for Mr Hicks’ remuneration, Mr Kelly said he would not like to be mayor.

He believed on the whole Mr Hicks performed well.

Grey Power Eastern Southland president Evan Currie said Mr Hicks was doing a good job as mayor.

He realised Mr Hicks had been criticised for spending, but the infrastructure upgrades in the district had to be undertaken as maintenance had not happened for a long time.

As for Mr Parry’s remuneration, he said it was in line with other councils.

“I guess you have to pay that sort of money to get that calibre of person,” Mr Currie said.


Local body remuneration


 

                                     Mayor                            Chief executive
Gore                              $79,286                        $257,976

Clutha                            $94,302                        $245,856

Average rural council    $75,517                        $229,019

National average          $108,072                      $298,149

Figures: Taxpayers’ Union ratepayers report