Mayor Len Brown of Auckland, New Zealand, defended the annual pay of almost $800,000 of senior council executives. In a public meeting, he told those present that they had to "meet the market."
The recently released 2013 annual report showed that council chief executive Doug McKay enjoyed a salary increase of $15,655 with a total annual salary of $782,887. Mark Ford, CEO of Watercare, had a salary increase of $70,000, earning an annual pay with the figure somewhere between $780,000 and $790,000.
In the same report, around 1,500 council staff members earned more than $100,000 while 13 members had earnings over $200,000.
Four candidates for mayor were asked how what they thought about the big salaries in a debate held at the Somervell Presbyterian Church in Remuera.
According to Mr Brown, he considered the council as one of the largest corporations in the country. For council members like Mr McKay, it was a big responsibility requiring a big salary to meet the market.
Pacific People's Advisory Panel head and Auckland University chaplain Uesifili UNasa was shocked at the number of council staff members receiving a salary of $100,000. In contrast, the cleaners of the council are struggling to make ends meet with low wages to pay for their family's needs. Most take on a second and third job to earn more money. Kiwis living in Australia are also struggling to acquire greater economic rights.
Mr Brown's rival, John Palino, said in the debate that he was uncomfortable with staff members earning between $700,000 and $800,000, but he didn't say what amount would be reasonable enough.
Mana Party candidate John Minto pledged that he would reduce the salary of the chief executive to $191,000. He said this was generous enough considering it was five times more the living wage. For the mayor's salary, Mr Minto plans to keep it at $153,000.
Mr Brown was questioned about the increasing debt of Auckland from $3.9 billion to $6.7 billion. On the other hand, Mr Palino drew more appreciation from the crowd when he said he will not spend a dime of taxpayer's money on a Manukai white-water rafting project estimated at $30 million.
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