Northland’s local government leaders are being called on to pledge part of their remuneration to a special Covid-19 emergency relief fund.
“Councillors are in the enviable position of their jobs being protected,” Bay of Islands’ Jane Johnston, president of the Paihia and Kerikeri ratepayers’ associations and an FNDC/NRC ratepayer, said.
“Pledging would reflect what’s going on in our communities.”
Her call comes after Northland’s Mayoral Forum said last week the region’s 42 councillors would not be able to take a 20 per cent “pay cut” – following in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s footsteps who committed to doing so for six months to show leadership – as it wasn’t possible under legislation.
Mayoral Forum chair Dr Jason Smith said councillors were instead making donations to worthy causes of their choice, on a voluntary basis and at levels as they saw fit, as they had already been doing for some time.
But Johnston said the councillor donations towards adapting to what would be a new normal, should not be made on an optional basis.
All councillors should make the 20 per cent pledge, she said. This should be for at least six months if not longer.
“Our councillors represent our community, that’s the pledge in their public office,” Johnston said.
The remuneration pledges would fund a regional relief fund. Groups helping those shifting out of Covid-19 could apply to the relief fund for support.
Deborah Glasgow, Whangaruru South Residents and Ratepayers Association chairwoman from Oakura, said such a pledge would mean councillors showing leadership in their communities.
Richard Gunson, Mangawhai ratepayer, business operator and local business association chairman, also said the pledge was a worthwhile option for Northlanders, many of whom were facing significant financial impacts as a result of Covid-19.
Tony Nixon, Teal Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association treasurer, said councillors pledging 20 per cent of their remuneration would be a positive move. He did not however believe it should be compulsory.
But the Northlanders’ calls have brought a strong response from Fran Wilde, New Zealand’s Remuneration Authority chairwoman. The Government authority is responsible for setting New Zealand’s hundreds of local government elected representatives’ remuneration.
The former cabinet minister, Wellington Mayor and Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman said Northlanders should hang fire on calling for councillor remuneration to be cut.
“Stop hounding your local councillors about this when it’s out of their hands,” Wilde said.
Remuneration for Northland’s 42 elected local government politicians could not go down.
This would require a law change.
It would not be possible for any law change to progress until Parliament opened again after New Zealand shifted out of Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown from Tuesday.
“Give (elected representatives) a breathing space while the Government decides,” Wilde said.
The Northern Advocate understands a range of options around local government remuneration will be considered.
WDC mayor Sheryl Mai said the Northland Mayoral Forum had made its position on the remuneration matter clear to the region’s ratepayers.