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Mayors chained to job for hours

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson, Carterton Mayor John Booth, and South Wairarapa Mayor Viv Napier. PHOTOS/FILE

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If you want to have a crack at being mayor for a day, be prepared to pull a long shift.

The region’s mayors say they wouldn’t trade it for anything, but the time and effort put in to the job can be exhausting.

The Remuneration Authority agency which sets pay rates for the country’s mayors will for the first time stipulate the packages are based on the job being a full-time role.

However, it said there would be no new rules or guidelines prohibiting mayors from taking on work outside their civic duties.

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson laughs at the idea that the role of mayor would fit into a typical working week.

“I am available 24/7 – and people do contact you all the time.”

She was working as a chartered accountant when she stood for mayor – “I took a pay cut.”

There is no time for a job outside her mayoral duties – it’s not a job you leave at the office.

“Just because you may be in a smaller council, it doesn’t mean you are doing a lot less hours,” she said.

“Sometimes in a smaller rural provincial town, the expectation is that people want to see you at things all the time.

“A lot of mayors probably don’t get recognised in supermarkets in bigger cities. . . some probably don’t do their own shopping.”

She said her Tararua and South Wairarapa counterparts, while mayors of smaller councils, were covering multiple centres.

“Tracey [Collis] and Viv [Napier] cover a lot of miles.”

Tararua Mayor Tracey Collis.

Collis, Mayor of Tararua district, said there was no time for her to have a job on the side.

“I commit myself full-time plus.”

She said she was more than a little embarrassed when filling out this years’ Census question on how many hours she worked.

“It’s not what you might advocate for an employee.”

She said the long hours were a consideration one had to make when standing for council.

Napier, South Wairarapa Mayor, said leading a district was far from a regular nine-to-five job.

“You couldn’t do another full-time job or even a proper, paid part-time job.

“I think you’d have to be self-employed, a farmer, or small business that had flexible hours.”

Previously, Napier was a teacher, moving to relief teaching when she was elected to council.

“There was flexibility there, but it wasn’t a full-time role.

Her decision to run for council was a personal choice, “so to do that I had to forego my full-time career”.

She said it was hard to ensure time for herself and her family.

“It takes a little while and I don’t think I’ve got that right yet.”

Juggling personal and professional life was about striking a balance.

“You don’t want to let your community down either, and that’s where it gets hard.”

Still, Napier said the job was “absolutely” worth it.

Carterton Mayor John Booth said he was usually working on his farm at the break of dawn.

He said there was time to do both mayoral duties, and work on a private business.

“Well for me, there has to be.”

He said demands on his time were very diverse and he got phone calls at all hours of the night.

“You get that, and I accept that – I take it as part of my job.

“I love this job, it’s really cool.”

He said it was important to get out in the community but also to ensure the day-to-day of council ran smoothly.

A big part of that was taking time to make sure elected members had a good working relationship with council’s officers.

The authority will publish new pay packages for New Zealand’s civic leaders later this month, which will be backdated to July 1.

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