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Published: 2011-05-05 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council has voted for salary cuts to better compensate councillors involved in resource management planning hearings.

Councillor salary and allowances are set independently by the Remuneration Authority, which takes into account factors such as the regional population and its growth, operational expenditure and net assets of the council.

Based on these criteria, the authority has indicated Waikato Regional Council has the same amount for salaries as last year, adjusted for inflation. This provides $666,633 for councillors, after allowing for the chairman’s salary of $142,100 which is unchanged.

At an extraordinary meeting yesterday to consider remuneration and meeting attendance fees, councillors agreed to reallocate their total remuneration pool by reducing their salaries and increasing the daily fee from $125 to $150 for those serving on planning hearings committees required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).  (The payment of meeting attendance fees does not apply to resource consent hearings.)

The new attendance fee will affect three councillors next financial year. Policy committee chair Paula Southgate and two others, who are yet to be decided, are expected to spend approximately 20 days hearing submissions on the proposed Regional Policy Statement. The extra $25 daily attendance allowance is a token for the significant preparation and follow-up reading councillors must do for planning hearings.

To cover the additional daily allowance for these hearings, councillors’ individual salaries will reduce from $44,935 to $44,774 next financial year, further reducing to an estimated $43,164 in the 2012/13 financial year.

Committee chairs’ salaries will reduce from the current $56,169 to $55,968 next year, with a further reduction in 2012/13 to approximately $53,955.

The deputy chairman’s salary will go from $67,403, dipping to $67,161 next year and further reducing to $64,746 the following year.

A carryover of approximately $20,000 from this year cushions the effect of the reductions on next year’s salaries, while the 2012/13 figures are estimates only and could change.

In a related decision, councillors agreed the RPS panel will also have an independent chair with expertise in the RMA and an independent commissioner with expertise in Maori resource management issues. Independent commissioner fees are covered by the project budget and do not affect the remuneration pool.

Councillors will continue to get $125 for other council meeting attendances.

The council also decided to set up a new sub-committee of the policy and strategy committee to guide the council’s response to the Waikato region’s complex land and water quality issues.

The elected members for Taupo (Laurie Burdett), South Waikato-Rotorua (Norm Barker), Central Waikato (Theresa Stark), Matamata-Piako (Phillip Legg), and one member each from Waipa-King Country (Stu Kneebone) and Hamilton (Lois Livingston) will sit on the new committee. Membership of the new committee aims to align with other areas of council business related to land and water quality including committees covering iwi/council joint management agreements, regulatory and catchment services.

At yesterday’s meeting Cr Norm Barker signalled he would be withdrawing from the regional public transport committee to focus on the land and water committee. Cr Paula Southgate becomes the chair of the public transport committee, while Cr Russ Rimmington was appointed deputy chair.

The council will also recognise the workload of external chairpersons appointed to the river and catchment services and regional pest management subcommittees by boosting their fee from $215 to $265 per meeting.

The council’s decisions for the remuneration structure and allowances for the 2011/12 year will now be sent as recommendations to the Remuneration Authority.