Unions are rejecting suggestions highest paid public servants lead by example and persuade more modestly-paid colleagues to accept pay restraint.
State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says there will be no extra money for government department chief executives' pay this year, an example of the restraint he would like to see trickle down.
The commission's annual report shows nearly 5000 senior public servants earn more than $100,000 a year, and 29 - not including chief executives - earn more than $300,000 a year.
In the year to July, chief executives received increases ranging from 3% to 7%. The commission is allowed by law to increase pay by 5% a year but will not do so for the current financial year.
Public Service Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff says calling for restraint among public servants who earn considerably less than six figure salaries won't wash.
Mr Rennie says all government departments are living on the same or less money than last year, and wage rises would mean a drop in service to the public or pressure on employment levels.
He told Morning Report he does not expect a wage freeze, but restraint is needed.
Earlier, Mr Rennie said a number of chief executives approached him earlier in the year, saying they did not want pay increases.