Wellington Scoop

No replacement Northern Ward councillor till voters decide next October

News from WCC
The Wellington City Council was unanimous today in deciding not to fill the vacancy following last month’s resignation of Takapū Northern Ward Councillor Malcolm Sparrow.

Mayor Foster says it wasn’t feasible to appoint a replacement Councillor at this late stage of the three-year election cycle. “A more pragmatic approach, given the Council’s current heavy workload, is to leave the decision to voters in October next year.”

At today’s Council meeting a late amendment to offer the vacancy to the Chair of the Makara-Ohariu Community Board, John Apanowicz, was voted down.

Cr Sparrow’s annual $111,225 salary will be divided up among the remaining 13 Councillors. This equates to a 7.55% increase for all elected members except the Mayor whose salary is set by the Remuneration Authority and cannot be changed.

Cr Simon Woolf has been appointed to replace Cr Sparrow as Chair of the Council’s Regulatory Committee, with Cr Teri O’Neill as Deputy Chair.


  1. Joel MacManus, 28. October 2021, 15:09

    The Wellington city councillors voted to split a retired colleague’s six-figure salary amongst themselves rather than appoint a replacement or donate the difference to charity. [via twitter]

  2. Rebecca Matthews, 28. October 2021, 15:31

    Agree that this decision should not have triggered a pay increase but that is the system we are working with. Will be donating half my pay rise to the Living Wage movement and half to DCM. [via twitter]

  3. Peter Kerr, 28. October 2021, 15:43

    How low can these people go? To promptly divide Sparrow’s unpaid salary among themselves, speaks of a venality among councillors that shocks me.
    I recently made a vow with myself never to lower myself to vote for a candidate for WCC. I’d urge others to turn their backs on them too.

  4. Ian Apperley, 28. October 2021, 16:34

    Here here Peter, voting just encourages them.

  5. Fleur Fitzsimons, 28. October 2021, 16:58

    I’ll be donating to groups doing good in Welly; thanks to Jill Day for trying to get the Remuneration Authority to reduce the pool, it would be a good law reform to reduce the rem pool when there is a resignation. [via twitter]

  6. Gwynn Compton, 28. October 2021, 17:05

    Remuneration Authority rules require them to split it if they don’t appoint someone to the vacancy – the entire governance remuneration pool must be allocated. This is to stop more well off councillors penalising or pressuring less well off councillors via councillor pay.

  7. Peter Kerr, 28. October 2021, 17:51

    I admit I’ve been shot down in flames with the revelation about Remuneration Authority rules on this matter. It seems an arcane rule, and I don’t accept the reasoning that less well off councillors should be deemed more susceptible to pressure from the well-heeled ones. There’s a hint of condescension in the logic.

  8. Voter, 28. October 2021, 17:57

    The point is our ward has lost a vote on the Council. What happened to democracy? That is the point. The STV results provided a solution.

  9. Toni, 28. October 2021, 18:08

    Unbelievable!! Hope we get to see proof that the money has been donated to good causes.

  10. Concerned Wellingtonian, 28. October 2021, 19:51

    Voting to keep the numbers down has two great advantages, not only to bump up one’s pay but also to give one a greater say and increasing the chances of getting quoted yourself and making certain there is not another voice at Council meetings.

  11. Dave B, 29. October 2021, 1:25

    This is maybe a silly, naive question for a system hidebound by silly, arcane rules, but can’t the relieved liability of Cr Sparrow’s salary simply be offset against the rates demand for the next review period? Seems simple and obvious enough to me.

  12. James, 29. October 2021, 10:54

    Why is it not ‘feasible’ to appoint a replacement councillor, when a replacement Member of Parliament could be elected if an electorate MP stood down. And if the council has such a heavy workload, wouldn’t an extra councillor be a help rather than a burden.

  13. James, 29. October 2021, 11:01

    According to the Remuneration Authority’s website, the money does not ‘have’ to be shared out among the remaining councillors. The website says:
    “Although the governance remuneration pool must be fully allocated, sometimes it might not be fully spent during the term of the current determination (usually 1 July to 30 June). For example, underspends may arise due to a vacancy or a councillor taking a leave of absence.”
    Did the Council actually check their plans with the Remuneration Authority before making this decision?

  14. James, 29. October 2021, 11:06

    The Remuneration Authority is absolutely clear that the Council should not do this – again, from their website:
    “Consequences of council vacancy or leave of absence. If a councillor’s position becomes vacant or an elected member takes unpaid leave of absence, the council must not reallocate among the remaining councillors the amount not being paid during the period of the vacancy or leave of absence. In these cases, the amount allocated is simply not spent by the council and is available for when the position is filled (often through a by-election) or the councillor returns after their leave of absence.”

  15. Peter Kerr, 29. October 2021, 14:25

    Thank you James for the link to the Remuneration Authority which is clear about the matter. (It also calls into question the view put forward by Gwynn Compton).
    Rather than indulging in indecent haste to spread the extra cash around, any councillor who had any appreciation of the concept of transparency would have sought leave from the Authority for advice on how to disburse it. At the very least they might have sought approval to retain the sum of money as an unspent surplus to supplement the salary budget for the next term.
    This money was not intended ever as a give-away if unspent. Yet the tone of the brief comments, above, of two councillors suggests dispersing their shares to charity clears up the whole matter. It doesn’t. Citizens don’t care what charity a councillor donates to personally; it’s the assumption that the money is rightfully hers or his that is the problem.
    How convenient it is that two-thirds of the current council term is deemed too close to an election to appoint a replacement councillor. In my view our councillors are an ever present source of embarrassment.