02 November 2023

The approach to setting chief executive remuneration balances 2 things — the need to maintain public trust and confidence in the public sector, and the need to attract and retain chief executives who are motivated by a spirit of service.

Te tiro whānui i tā te Tumu Whakarae taiutu Chief executive remuneration overview

Accountability for setting chief executive remuneration 

The approach to setting chief executive remuneration balances 2 things — the need to maintain public trust and confidence in the public sector, and the need to attract and retain chief executives who are motivated by a spirit of service. There are a range of reasons why public sector remuneration — particularly at the senior executive level — is and needs to be lower than the private sector.

The Public Service Commissioner (the Commissioner) is the employer of chief executives of departments and departmental agencies, and determines their remuneration, except for those whose remuneration is set by the Remuneration Authority.

The Remuneration Authority is responsible for determining the remuneration of some chief executives and Officers of Parliament (including the Commissioner and Deputy Public Service Commissioners). The following analysis doesn’t include those whose remuneration has determined by the Remuneration Authority.

The Commissioner provides guidance to the boards of Crown agents, autonomous and independent Crown entities, and Tertiary Education Institutions (TEIs) on chief executive remuneration. This guidance is used by boards who employ chief executives and are therefore responsible for agreeing the terms and conditions with their chief executives. These are finalised after the Commissioner gives his consent.

Remuneration packages paid to chief executives of departments and departmental agencies 

Total remuneration for secretaries of departments and chief executives of departmental agencies comprises base salary, an employer contribution to superannuation and the value of any benefits (such as a week’s leave above the statutory 20 days).

Table 1: Average remuneration of chief executives of departments and departmental agencies* 

Year

2022/23

2021/22

2020/21

2019/20

2018/19

2017/18

Average remuneration

$489,000

$478,000

$485,000

$482,000

$478,000

$500,000

*This excludes those whose remuneration is determined by the Remuneration Authority and the interim Health departmental agencies

The average remuneration package paid to secretaries of departments and chief executives of departmental agencies has increased by 2.3% in the year to 30 June 2023. The net result over the last 5 years is a 2.2% decrease in average remuneration. This decrease does not include the 6-month voluntary 20% pay cut taken by all chief executives of departments and departmental agencies

Remuneration increases by organisation type 

The following table sets out the median and average increases for increases implemented over the three years to 30 June 2023. This data excludes increases due to job size changes, and chief executive remuneration reviews that have not yet been confirmed.

Table 2: Median and average percentage increases*

Type of organisation

Year ending 2022/23

Year ending 2021/22

Year ending 2020/21

 

Median

Average

Median

Average

Median

Average

Departments and departmental agencies

3.0%

2.2%

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

All Crown entities (incl. TEI’s)

1.5%

1.6%

Nil

0.3%

Nil

0.1%

Crown agents (incl. DHBs)**

1.5%

1.9%

Nil

0.1%

Nil

0.1%

Other Crown entities***

1.5%

1.7%

Nil

0.7%

Nil

0.1%

Tertiary Education Institutions (TEI’s)

1.5%

1.0%

Nil

Nil

Nil

Nil

Market data – private sector****

5.0%

6.2%

4.1%

3.8%

-1.2%

-3.1%

*This excludes Public Trust and Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation. The Public Service Commissioner takes a different approach to discharging his responsibilities under Section 117 of the Crown Entities Act for these two entities, by treating them as if they were a State-Owned Enterprise (SOE). As part of this process, the Commissioner’s consent is informed by advice from the Treasury regarding comparable remuneration for SOE Chief Executives. Public Trust and Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation disclose Chief Executive remuneration through their annual reports.

** DHB’s disestablished on 1 July 2022 and replaced with Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand.

*** This includes autonomous Crown entities, independent Crown entities and the Crown entity companies whose Chief Executive remuneration requires Commissioner consent.

**** Data Source: Korn Ferry — Chief executives/group heads — March 2023, March 2022, March 2021.

Comparison of levels of remuneration across sector  

The graph below plots remuneration against job size for chief executives in different sectors. 

These trend lines are based on data for the 2022/23 year. Remuneration lines are based on our data (for departments and departmental agencies, DHBs and TEIs, and other Crown entities — year to 30 June 2023) and Korn Ferry New Zealand (for private sector and state-owned enterprises — year to 31 March 2023). 

The graph shows a clear relationship between remuneration and job size — the ‘larger’ the job, the higher the pay. 

The graph shows the varying degrees of influence the Commissioner has over senior pay. The Commissioner has no influence over private sector and state-owned enterprises. The greater the Commissioner’s influence, the lower the levels of pay (for the same size of job). Accordingly, the lowest line is for chief executives of departments and departmental agencies whose pay is set by the Commissioner. 

Pūrongo puakanga Tumu Whakarae Chief executive disclosure report

At the request of Cabinet, we have publicly reported on chief executive pay since 2010 to provide transparency for the public. This includes the secretaries of departments, chief executives of departmental agencies, Crown agents and other statutory Crown entities, TEIs, Offices of Parliament and non-Public Service departments.

Chief executive remuneration 

The chief executive remuneration table includes the remuneration of the secretaries, chief executives and acting chief executives for organisations across the public sector. As noted above, remuneration for chief executives is set differently depending on type of organisation.

This table is updated at least every 6 months, and shows: 

  • remuneration that was earned between completed remuneration reviews
  • remuneration earned up to the end date of appointments which have been completed.

Disclosure of pay reductions from April 2020 

In mid-April 2020, the Prime Minister announced that ministers and Public Service chief executives had volunteered to take 20% pay cuts for 6 months as pay restraint was the right thing to do at the time. 

Public service chief executives take pay cut

Many Crown entity chief executives also voluntarily chose to take a pay reduction. The pay reductions varied in size and how they were implemented. Some chose to make charitable donations. 

To be consistent with the accrual remuneration approach, reduced remuneration has been disclosed where the chief executive took a voluntary pay reduction that affected what they earned in the reporting period. To aid transparency a note has been added to each entry to record where that has happened. Some reductions will span 2 disclosures. Questions on decisions taken by Crown entity chief executives should be directed to individual Crown entities.

Temporary reductions applying to chief executives or officers whose remuneration is set by the Remuneration Authority were effective from 9 July 2020 for 6 months. Further information about the process for those covered by the Remuneration Authority can be found below.

The Detailed Disclosure Notes provide more information on how the data is compiled.

Chief executive remuneration detailed disclosure notes

Remuneration Authority and pay restraint

The Remuneration Authority (the Authority) sets the remuneration for independent statutory officers, which include the Commissioner, Deputy Public Service Commissioner and Solicitor General — all of whom lead Public Service departments — as well as the heads of non-Public Service departments and Offices of Parliament, such as the Commissioner of Police and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. 

Authority decisions are called determinations. Once a determination has been made by the Authority, that amount must be paid. For the period from 1 July 2019 to the end of February 2020, the Authority’s determinations generally reflected New Zealand’s economic and public sector labour market conditions before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic on our shores.

Determinations issued after February 2020, for newly appointed statutory officers, were restrained by the prevailing adverse economic and fiscal environment caused by the pandemic. Consequently, the remuneration for those statutory officers was set at a lower rate than would otherwise have been determined. 

During late April/early May 2020, the Authority received requests from a number of statutory officers who wanted to join their colleagues in the wider public sector to take a pay reduction or advised that they had chosen to make donations instead. However, the Remuneration Authority Act 1977 (the Act) prevented the remuneration of existing statutory officers to be reduced, and therefore needed to be amended.

The Act was amended in May 2020 to allow the Authority to make temporary reductions, of up to 20%, to the determinations of existing statutory officers listed under schedule 4A of the Act for a period of up to 6 months. The temporary reduction determinations had to be issued on or before 30 June 2020.  After consultation with those statutory office holders in respect of whom temporary reduction determinations may be made, the Authority issued its temporary reduction determinations during June 2020, to be effective from 9 July 2020.

For further information about Senior leader remuneration, see our Workforce Data - Senior leader remuneration/ pay  

Previous disclosures

Remuneration Overview 2020(PDF, 475 KB)

Senior Pay Report 2019(PDF, 6.9 MB)

Senior Pay Report 2018(PDF, 2 MB)

Senior Pay Disclosure Tables 2018(XLSX, 71 KB)

Senior Pay Report 2017(PDF, 2.7 MB)

Senior Pay Disclosure Tables 2017(XLSX, 66 KB)