Pay review for council chief executive

Publish Date : 17 Dec 2015

On 17 December, Auckland Council’s governing body determined a new remuneration package of $690,000 for Chief Executive (CE) Stephen Town. 

Mr Town’s salary will be fixed for two years. In 2014, Mr Town was appointed to the role with a salary of $630,000, which was also fixed for two years. 

Councillor Christine Fletcher, who chairs the CEO Review Committee, which made recommendations to the governing body, says the committee had reviewed Mr Town’s performance over the past two years. 

“He is an experienced chief executive and has brought about some very positive changes at the council,” Cr Fletcher says.

“Mr Town’s remuneration is aligned with the council’s focus on providing sound financial stewardship and doing more with less without compromising customer service, community and citizens. It has ensured our workforce effectively serves a diverse and changing Auckland." 

Questions and answers on the CE’s pay 

How is the CE’s pay decided? 

  • The CE is appointed by, and accountable to, the governing body, who sets his/her pay level
  • The process to review the CE’s pay is managed by a subcommittee of councillors, called the CE Review Committee, which makes recommendations to the governing body.

What factors are taken into account when deciding the pay? 

The Review Committee takes a wide range of factors into account when deciding what pay level to recommend, including:

  • external advice and market comparisons from two independent experts
  • past salaries for the CE role
  • the latest annual review of public sector and state sector chief executives by the State Services Commission
  • the level of experience and performance of the chief executive. 

What level of pay did the external advice recommend? 

  • Prior to Stephen Town’s appointment, the council received external expert advice recommending a ‘midpoint’ salary of $721,440. Mr Town was offered the salary of $630,000 fixed for two years (87.3 per cent of the recommended midpoint). This is the equivalent to an annual pay rise of 2.3 per cent over the four-year term
  • The latest external advice recommends a mid-point of $775,000. The Governing Boy has offered Mr Town $690,000 fixed for two years (89 per cent of the recommended midpoint). This is the equivalent to an annual pay rise of 2.3 per cent over the four-year term. 

How does the council CE’s salary compare to other public sector CEs? 

  • Comparing the CE’s salary with the wider public sector is a challenge as there is no local authority or government department of comparable size or scale to Auckland Council.
  • Auckland Council has around 8500 staff, assets of $42 billion and annual income of approximately $3.5 billion.

The following is a list of the 10 highest paid public service and state sector chief executives as at 30 June 2015, sourced from the State Services Commission. It excludes State-Owned Enterprises and other councils:

 Chief executive 

Total remuneration range ($)

Guardians of NZ Superannuation




University of Auckland




Ministry of Education




NZ Tourism Board




Ministry of Social Development






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