Christchurch City Council chief executive Tony Marryatt says he may turn down his $68,000 pay rise as the Government moves to pick up the pieces of the "dysfunctional" council.
Christchurch is trying to rebuild after a series of devastating earthquakes but a controversial pay rise for Marryatt is fuelling the flames as the council falls apart.
Prime Minister John Key says the atmosphere at the council is becoming dysfunctional.
And after weeks of defending the hefty $68,000 pay hike, Marryatt said in a statement today that he "still could change his mind on whether or not he'll accept the increase".
Mayor Bob Parker believes the chief executive will eventually decline the rise but only if his city councillors start working together.
"I think he's definitely saying I want to see an outcome, I want to see real commitment from the council to work together cohesively and respectfully," said Parker.
But an angry public and squabbles within the council has prompted Local Government Minister Nick Smith to fly in to meet councillors tomorrow.
"I am hopeful that the meeting tomorrow will be successful and we're going to get the Christchurch City Council on to a more constructive footing," Smith said.
However people lobbying against the pay rise say the council needs to be held accountable.
"The councillors actually voted for the pay rise...it's their problem," said Peter Lynch from the protest group No Pay Rise for Tony Marryatt.
Lynch said even if Marryatt decides to turn the pay rise down now it will not be enough.
"His pay rise really was just a catalyst for this protest. We have a huge problem within the council. There's a vote of no trust among the ratepayers now."
Lynch wants commissioners appointed to take over at the council, but the Government has ruled that out for now.
"It would in my view be a disappointment if the Government had to go down that track," Smith said.
Lynch said the spats have got ratepayers incensed and he wants to see early local body elections in the city.
"They're angry; they're really incensed about all the issues that have gone on and the inappropriate spending."
While acknowledging that the council has been under pressure and has worked hard for Christchurch, Lynch said the public have had enough of the infighting and instability and "there's too many issues now to just let it go".
Pay rise justified
The head of Local Government New Zealand believes huge pay rises for some council chief executives are justified.
Reports of the latest bumper pay rise for a council executive has led to calls for the Government to clamp down on excessive public sector salaries.
But Local Government president Lawrence Yule says most local authorities use a consultancy company which benchmarks all other chief executives in both the public and private sector.
He said while he understands the public concern the remuneration levels being paid to council CEOs are substantially less than those in the private sector.
Yule says many of the chief executives are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets.
Kapiti Coast District Council chief executive Pat Dougherty is the latest to be offered a pay increase, a top-up of $44,000 which takes his annual salary to $285,000 - an extra 18.2% a year.
Kapiti ratepayers face a 12% rates hike next year.
New Zealand First is now considering bringing in a private members bill to curb the salary increases.