18 May 2017

Salary for top Auckland Transport job faces chop

8:29 am on 18 May 2017

The $680,000 salary paid to Auckland Transport's chief executive could be in line for a haircut.

Auckland City Council building

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

The agency needs to replace its departing chief executive, David Warburton, who leaves in December and earns up to $679,000 - more than the head of the council.

Senior council politicians and Auckland Transport managers will hold initial discussions about his replacement today.

David Warburton is the last of the original chief executives, appointed when the amalgamated Auckland Council and its new council-controlled agencies (CCOs), were formed in 2010. At that time his salary ranked number three in the group.

David Warburton

David Warburton earns up to $679,000 and is leaving in December. Photo: Supplied

The salaries paid for the two highest-ranked positions were significantly reduced when the inaugural appointees were replaced.

The long-serving chief executive of Watercare, Mark Ford, was on $860,000 when he retired on medical grounds shortly before his death in 2014.

He was succeeded by his deputy Raveen Jaduram on a basic salary of $510,000 and able to rise to $586,500 on performance.

The inaugural CEO of the Auckland Council, Doug McKay, was on $780,000 and he was succeeded by Stephen Town who began on $150,000 less.

The mayor, Phil Goff, was elected with a campaign slogan of 'More for Less' and has both publicly and privately urged the council-controlled agencies to be more effective with ratepayer funds.

A spokesperson for Mr Goff said the mayor had not had any discussions with AT about the salary of its next CEO.

"The AT Board makes the decision on the CEO's remuneration and the mayor would expect the salary to be at a level which attracts the best quality person for the role and ensures value for money for Aucklanders," a statement from Mr Goff's office said.

The process of replacing Dr Warburton is on the agenda for a top level meeting today between the mayor, senior councillors and AT's chair Lester Levy.

Councillor Chris Darby chairs the planning committee to which AT answers and said salary was one of the things they would discuss about the recruitment process.

"We would sit up and take notice if we saw a salary that was well out of the range of what was expected, keeping in mind the salary of our current chief executive, and of those at the other CCOs," said Chris Darby.

David Warburton's current salary is around $20,000 higher than that of Stephen Town.

Mr Darby said the council CEO's salary should probably be the highest.

"That is the top job in the organisation and the others sit under that, but at this stage I can't really jump to the conclusion as to what the salary range would be.

"When government set up the amalgamated Auckland there were some hefty salaries paid to the then CEO of our own council, and Watercare and Auckland Transport, to name just three," he said.

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