STATEMENT FROM MAYOR CHADWICK
16 April 2020
We are all acutely aware of the hurt our community is feeling at present as a result of COVID-19 and that is reflected in our Rotorua recovery plan and considerations for our upcoming annual plan.
We know that our district, like others, faces tough times ahead and that needs to be reflected in the work programme we set as a council.
There is a view that remuneration “cuts” are another way for local government to acknowledge this and I’ve been asked for my views on this matter several times in recent weeks.
I have expressed my strong view that trying to publicly shame or force elected members or council staff into a certain position is morally wrong. This also fails to acknowledge that elected members, just like members of the wider community, are all individuals in different personal circumstances.
Individual elected members are free to donate, both financially and in kind, to causes of their choosing and I know that many already do and will again. That is their personal choice and decision and that was reinforced again yesterday during an informal meeting to which all our elected members were invited.
Yesterday was the first time we have had the opportunity to all meet as a collective. It was an informal meeting where we were all updated on progress being made on key work programmes and we agreed to support a Rural and Provincial Sector recommendation to LGNZ to ask the Remuneration Authority to “freeze” elected members’ pay for the 2020/21 year, removing the legislative requirement for inflationary adjustment for the financial year.
t’s worth clarifying that while the decisions by councils regarding elected member remuneration are being reported as “pay cuts” they are in reality a donation as local government elected members cannot refuse a salary determined by the Remuneration Authority. The Central Government decision is separate to those being made by the local government sector.
So as I have said previously, I believe it is a personal decision for elected members and staff, all of whom are in different personal situations, to determine what further support they may be able to give their community at this time.
Regarding calls for council staff salary or job cuts, that is not a matter for elected members. As the governance arm of Council we appoint only the Chief Executive and he has already, as part of negotiations following his recent re-appointment to the role, taken a pay freeze. His new contract will be the same as his previous contract.
He is very aware of the pressure being felt by our council organisation and across the sector regarding how we will tackle the recovery.
The expectation is that the council is run as efficiently as possible, that costs are closely scrutinised, that as a public organisation we need to act responsibly and that now is not a time for salary increases. Our CE is very aware and supportive of these expectations.