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The CERA salary

Written By: - Date published: 12:58 pm, May 14th, 2011 - 98 comments
Categories: disaster - Tags:

CERA’s new head, Roger Sutton, seems like a good guy. Transformative vision for Chch. Seems committed and realistic. Might just survive having to work with Brownlee. But what’s with the $500K salary? He says he wanted the job. So why pay him $10K per week while Cantabrians are getting their wage support cut?

Update to make clear I’m attacking the wage, not the man.

98 comments on “The CERA salary”

  1. Spam 1

    errr…. because he took a pay CUT to take the job.

    • Zetetic 1.1


    • Zetetic 1.2

      also raises the question of why the head of a local lines company is being paid more than the PM in the first place.

      • Lanthanide 1.2.1

        Because it’s a more important job. If the electricity in Christchurch didn’t work, we’d have no economic output there at all. We’ve all seen the job that John Key has done and yet the country hasn’t completely shut down.

        • Colonial Viper

          Lanth that is the most ridiculous rationale for private sector overpayment that I have heard.

          A fair days pay for a fair days work please.

          John Key and bill English manage to depress the economy of NZ but the tune of billions per year and according to your rationale its OK they are paid less as bad economic doctors because we haven’t quite flatlined yet?


          • Lanthanide

            I’m just saying why he gets paid more than the PM. In the ministrys, the CEOs always get paid more than the ministers do, and that’s because they’re the ones that actually do the work.

            My comment about John Key was a facetious jab at him being useless.

            • Colonial Viper

              You’ll see from my comment below that I actually think that $500K p.a. is a reasonable wage for the massive job he has accepted.

              What I find despicable is that the Govt is shortchanging locals at the same time as they are offering top money to this manager.

              • Gus

                In what way are locals being shortchanged? They have all the usual benefits that any one else is entitled (Unemployment etc) to plus other additional local benefits (the wage top ups etc that were put in place to help business to reopen etc, direct aid from organisations like first aid etc).

                What else do you think needs to be done? How would you pay for your proposals?

  2. Spam 2

    Do you want someone with decent expertise to actually do the job properly? You actually do have to pay for decent skills.

    What do you think he should be paid?

    • weka 2.1

      This doesn’t have anything to do with being paid for skill and expertise though. No-one is that good that they deserve that kind of salary. There are only so many things you can do in a week after all. The reason some people get paid that kind of money is because too many of the people in positions of power are greedy fucks with a grossly inflated sense of entitlement. And because we let them using exactly the argument you’ve put forward.

      • Spam 2.1.1

        This doesn’t have anything to do with being paid for skill and expertise though. No-one is that good that they deserve that kind of salary Of course it does, and of course there are. Just because you don’t actually understand the skills that these people bring to the table doesn’t mean that they are not without value. You really want an ‘average joe / josephine’ being given this job? Really? Because that’s exactly what you’d get paying an average wage.

    • Zetetic 2.2

      “You actually do have to pay for decent skills.”

      Sutton said he wanted the job and didn’t negotiate on pay. Govt could have paid him less.

      “What do you think he should be paid?”

      Actual question is, if I were him what would I feel is right to receive in payment. Since it’s the opportunity of a life-time to rebuild a city, my fellow citizens need the money desperately, and I’m already rich due to my Orion salary, I would do it for free in his shoes.

      • terryg 2.2.1

        perhaps, Zetetic, perhaps. Just because someone is “rich” and gets paid a fairly stupendous salary, it doesnt mean they are without debt. I aint one of them, but I have met a few, and read about plenty more. LOTS of the obscenely “rich” have metric fuckloads (0.454*imperial fuckloads) of ludicrously complex debt structured this way and that (IANAA, but LAQCs are just the beginning).

        I think of it like running at a ful sprint, and an angle of 45 degees. all fine and dandy, but stop or even slow down, and WHAM (at which point I’ll laugh, long and loud). how the hell else can these so-called rich listers suddenly pauper themselves? essentially what it means is the “X is worth $Y million” is often complete bullshit.

        • Alwyn

          My God!
          I read it three times and I am still confused as to what you mean.
          Quick. What are you smoking and where can I get some?

          • terryg

            read the last sentence. basically, I dont really believe a lot of these so-called rich listers have ANYTHNG LIKE as much REAL money as is made out. do they REALLY own the title to their multi-million dollar mansions, or is it more likely they have massive debts too. do they really own those $500,000 stupid cars (so low slung they are almost undriveable on NZ roads).

            If so, I find it hard to understand how, say, Petricevic (pronounced “thieving fuck”) goes from being worth many tens of millions to nothing almost overnight.

            or Bill Gates – some $50Billion right? but most of that is shares in Microsoft, not actual money. And guess what – if BG sold all his shares in Microsoft at once, they’d be worth a LOT less than that (OMG, what does BG know we dont? MS must be in trouble. sell, sell, sell)

            please dont think I have any sympathy for rich fucks though – I dont.

            • Alwyn

              Thank you.
              This I understand.
              As far as property developers go I certainly agree with you. I remember Bob Jones complaint once about being called a property developer. He said he was a property investor and that he had never met a property developer who didn’t end up going bankrupt. Certainly the claimed wealth of people like Hotchins or Serepesos must be doubted. Mind you I think a lot of the wealth “estimates” are simply journalists interviewing their computer keyboards.
              About Bill Gates. Hmm. Actually he doesn’t own that big a share of Microsoft anyway. Certainly he would have trouble realising all the shares in a short period but it could easily be done over a couple of years. He may have already transferred them to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation anyway. He was certainly planning to put nearly all his wealth into that and he has also realised a lot of them already.
              He said he was only going to leave about $20 million to each of his kids. Must be tough to be the child of a rich man musn’t it?

              • Alwyn

                As a minor addition to this I would note some comments from the Microsoft annual meeting in 2010.
                Bill Gates sells 20 million Micosoft shares each quarter to fund the foundation I mentioned above.
                That is about $500 million dollars worth.
                It is also a trivial number considering that the average daily turnover in Microsoft is about 63 million.
                Is (was) he worth a real $50 billion?
                I don’t think in his case there is any real doubt.

                • terryg

                  fair comment Aldwyn, and I should have picked a better example. But you got it, and your post elucidated it nicely 🙂

  3. weka 3

    It’s a major slap in the face for all the people in Chch still struggling.

    Does he have a choice about his salary? He could always donate a big chunk of it I guess.

  4. U 4 United 4

    “Wouldn’t be able to face myself in the mirror!” That’ll never be your problem as a job requiring this level of expertise is hemispheres away from you.

    • Zetetic 4.1

      not the point. If Sutton’s so keen on the job, why didn’t he say ‘just pay me the average wage?’

      He’s getting more than the PM, you know.

      • U 4 United 4.1.1

        …because he is WORTH more than the average wage.

        • Colonial Viper

          And how about all those workers left unemployed after their workplaces were destroyed.

          How much are they worth Mr United? And why is the Government canning emergency payments to them when it is clear that rebuilding work is still beginning.

  5. NickC 5

    Maybe he donates large amounts of his salary to charity? I makes sense to take the salary and give what you can to a privitate charity than let the government keep it (regardless of who is in power). By keeping it for a charity he can choose between hundreds of causes, and a reputible organisation. Governments are unaccountable and untransparent.

    • Zetetic 5.1

      actually charities are unaccountable. governments are elected and produce thousands of pages a year in transparency documents.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1

        Governments are also more efficient than private charities (well, the private sector in general).

      • Nick C 5.1.2

        Charities are accountable because they have an incentive to be: There is competition between charities and if one charity chooses to make itself unaccountable people have the credible threat that they can not donate to it. You dont have that threat with government: No matter how bad they are you still have to keep paying your taxes. The fact that we get the choice between tweedledum and tweedledee once every 3 years (and lets be honest, as an individual your vote, and Roger Suttons vote, counts for absolutely nothing) is hardly a substitute.

    • Colonial Viper 5.2

      Maybe he donates large amounts of his salary to charity?

      Maybe he gives to Mother Theresa.

      So what’s your point????

      Ah well, I guess at least some folk are making out fine from the Christchurch disaster.

  6. why take $10K per week while Cantabrians are getting their wage support cut? Wouldn’t be able to face myself in the mirror.

    How ’bout if the we gave the job to someone unqualified who was willing to work for free – to prove some marginal ideological point – and the recovery was botched and inflicted tens of billions of dollars of damage to the wider economy? Could’ya look at yourself in the mirror then?

    • Zetetic 6.1

      false dichotomy. Sutton doesn’t have to take half a million dollars for his services.

      you’re smarter than that.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        No, going by his argument, he probably isn’t.

        • terryg

          really, Z & DTB?

          I have to agree with Danyl. I mean come on, look at what some of these so-called “hotshots” (economist speak for fuckwit it appears) have done to their companies. the people at the top can, and do, do terminal amounts of damage if they are talentless bungling fools.

          [note: I am in no way arguing (cos its bollocks) that the techniques currently used for “finding” these so-called top people actually work very well]

          I am also biased – as a (power electronics) engineer, I am well aware that engineering companies (you know, companies that actually do REAL STUFF, not play with imaginary paper) are very easily ruined with twits at the top. (a common method is to hire a CEO that ISNT an engineer)

          and the point La alluded to, that Orion have done a hell of a job, is a bloody valid one. To do what Orion have done requires tremendous effort, dedication and skill, throughout the entire organisation. I really should say “from top down”.


          Because imagine if an incompetent mouthpiece like ShonKey were at the top. Do you think he’ll ensure everyone else is highly competent? or will the next layer down get filled with cronys? let it go for a while, and it wont matter how good the people at the bottom are, how motivated, or how hard they work – the organisational structure just wont be there.

          And (as NACT have shown) without a functional organisation, big things just cant get done.

          Again, I take my hat (gets up, puts hat on. literally!) off and applaud Orion. well fucking done the lot of ya.

          As for the “he didn’t have to take it” well technically thats true.

          But while we’re at it, hows about everyone that makes that argument goes and analyses their finances, sells/refinances everything they own, and gives every cent bar that which they need for repayments to christchurch? got two cars? why havent you sold one and donated the money to Christchurch? selfish pricks.

          reductio ad absurdum for sure, but nevertheless valid.

          fuck it, THATS WHY WE PAY TAXES. thats why I am HAPPY to pay my tax bill, and one of the reasons I dont do ANY fancy tax-dodging tricks (the other is because I dont understand it, and fucked if I can make myself learn shit like that, my brain just screams noooooo)

          • felix

            But while we’re at it, hows about everyone that makes that argument goes and analyses their finances, sells/refinances everything they own, and gives every cent bar that which they need for repayments to christchurch? got two cars? why havent you sold one and donated the money to Christchurch? selfish pricks.

            reductio ad absurdum for sure, but nevertheless valid.

            Nah it’s not valid at all. Because it’s reductio ad absurdum.

            If you want to use car ownership as an analogue for the conspicuous consumption of drawing a $500k salary then at least keep it proportional.

            If you’d said “everyone with more than 10 cars” then you might have avoided the absurd reduction.

            • terryg

              Hi Felix,

              why does one person need more than one car? and why is 10 cars conspicuous consumption, but 9 is not.

              see, for example, DTB’s “It’s far more than he needs to live well, so, yeah, actually it is” statement @9.1

              what you have done a nice job of highlighting is just what a quagmire attempting to define what is “too much” rapidly becomes.

              Nope, how things work at the moment is not even close to equitable, and no, I dont like that one little bit. My wife is a Nurse, and Nurses get paid SHIT. Lawyers get paid shitloads. And I for one fail to see how a lawyer is any more useful to society than a nurse, let alone 20x more so.

              as others have said so well in this thread there is NOT a direct (or linear) relationship between pay and performance.

              The use of Reductio Ad Absurdum was deliberate.

              • felix

                Yes I agree with your point about the problem of defining what is “too much”, but I’m not actually trying to define it.

                What I was getting at is that a better analogy to being paid more than 10 times the average wage would be owning 10 cars, not 2.

          • uke

            It is interesting your implied preference for an engineer to lead the rebuilding of Christchurch. The NZ government thought much the same after the 1931 Napier earthquake:

            “On 11 March 1931 the government appointed magistrate J. S. Barton and engineer L. B. Campbell as commissioners of Napier. Together with local committees they had the daunting task of organising reconstruction.” (From Te Ara)

            J.S. Barton, it should also be noted, had already led various government commissions of inquiry including one on Napier harbour in 1927 and was honoured for his public service by both the Tory and Labour governments of the era. I’m sure public servants with long, broad-ranging expertise in civic infrastructure and management of Barton’s calibre still exist.

            This CERA appointment is yet another ideological snubbing of the public service by National and yet more deference to corporate glamour boys with high-priced salaries.

            • terryg


              like I said, physical laws dont care a whit about polls, spin or politics. Not to say that there arent plenty of crap engineers, or engineering organisations.

              “I’m sure public servants with long, broad-ranging expertise in civic infrastructure and management of Barton’s calibre still exist.”

              I think you’re wrong. NZ no longer has engineering civil servants. Once upon a time we had the ministry of works. all gone now. EVERYTHING is contracted out (leading to massive cost blowouts, blah blah – fucking morons).

              I might be wrong, and I’d love that to be the case, but last I looked OPUS et al ate the lot.

              and thats not just a crying shame, its downright criminal. We are payng a heavy price for that sort of ideological lunacy, and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

              [The army engineers still exist]

              • uke

                Yes, the dismantling of the MOW has probably spelled the end of civil servant engineers (except in the army and maybe also local government). But surely the likes of Barton – who wasn’t an engineer, just a good civic-minded administrator – are still around.

                My point is that in 1931 a Tory government appointed a balanced two-person team, including a specialist and a public servant. In 2011, National appoint a business executive. It signals loud and clear this government’s values. Brownlee probably just wants someone to do his bidding and a half-mill pay packet is how you get that.

                • terryg

                  OK, understood.

                  dear god (there are no gods, religion is a mental illness) I hope your wrong. given his track record, you might be. but your argument is sound, so you might not. Please Roger Sutton, dont fuck this up (or let King Gerry fuck it up for you)

    • Zetetic 6.2

      It’s not a “marginal ideological point”, Danyl. You’re a scientist, it’s an optimisation problem. How do we get the most human welfare with limited resources, represented by money. Not by giving ten times the average wage to a guy who wants the job so much salary wasn’t an issue for him while, at the same time cutting support to thousands of Chch workers.

      • godder 6.2.1

        All Sutton said was there was no negotiation, not that he would have taken it for less.

        Isnt it possible he thought $500k was in line with his expectations and so he said yes without negotiating?!

        He is worth every cent and he deserves every cent.

    • Colonial Viper 6.3

      Tell me Danyl, you seem impressed that Sutton is the most qualified guy, tell me, how many other earthquake ruined communities has Sutton successfully rebuilt?

  7. Armchair Critic 7

    Yeah, it’s the working for Gerry Brownlee that clinches it for me. Though, in all likelihood, it will be working in spite of Gerry Brownlee.
    I reckon $500k isn’t unreasonable for having to put up with that – I’d absolutely never work for Brownlee for free, whatever my personal circumstances. But that’s me.

  8. Robert B 8

    This article is pathetic.

    That’s not an excessive salary. You pay for what you get and he’s doing it for a discount.

    Honestly, some here really need to understand the real world.

    • Zetetic 8.1

      “You pay for what you get”

      the salary wasn’t an issue in Sutton taking the job. So the question is whether the money would be more useful elsewhere.

    • Tangled up in blue 8.2

      In the context of a global market yes.

  9. Colonial Viper 9

    At the end of the day the pay Sutton is receiving is not in itself excessive. It’s a big job and he will be on the receiving end of a lot of heartache as part of it. If Christchurch is wonderously operating again in a years time, and a completely rebuilt re-energised city in 5 years time, he will have delivered value.

    HOWEVER the fact that the Government is willing to squeeze homeless Christchurch residents into shitty cold campervans for $190+ pw, and is also willing to kill payments to Christchurch people made unemployed in the earthquake, makes Sutton’s level of pay an absolute atrocity.

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      At the end of the day the pay Sutton is receiving is not in itself excessive.

      It’s far more than he needs to live well, so, yeah, actually it is.

      If Christchurch is wonderously operating again in a years time,and a completely rebuilt re-energised city in 5 years time, he will have delivered value.

      It won’t be so would that mean he hasn’t delivered value and should give his pay back?

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.1

        It won’t be so would that mean he hasn’t delivered value and should give his pay back?

        yeah there should be penalty clauses like this in the contract.

        It’s far more than he needs to live well, so, yeah, actually it is.

        Fair enough – although the same could certainly be said for anyone on over $50,000-$60,000 p.a.

    • terryg 9.2

      “HOWEVER the fact that the Government is willing to squeeze homeless Christchurch residents into shitty cold campervans for $190+ pw, and is also willing to kill payments to Christchurch people made unemployed in the earthquake, makes Sutton’s level of pay an absolute atrocity”

      not so much CV. flip it around the other way, and it’ll come out something like this:

      HOWEVER the fact that the Government is willing to pay what it takes to get some serious talent* to run CERA, makes their actions re. cancelling unemployment assistance, attempting to squeeze victims into $190/wk shitbox caravans etc. AN ABSOLUTE FUCKING DISGRACE

      which is IMO far more accurate.

      * rather than, say, an ex MP, or Roger Kerr etc.
      [assuming that Sutton really is bloody good, and given what Orion has achieved so far in ChCh he must be at the least highly competent]

      Again, a biased statement: as an engineer, I reckon a sizeable chunk of whats wrong with NZ Govts is the LACK of engineers in office. Unlike accountants and Lawyers,engineers actually do REAL STUFF, working with REALITY. you cant “spin” your way out of a load calculation – if you fuck it up, the bridge collapses. Reality doesn’t read Kiwiblog or watch 3 news……nor does it give a fuck about polls.

      I should also clarify: Sutton isnt an engineer, but hes spent a long time working in successful engineering organisations, and doesnt appear to have left a trail of destruction behind him – the opposite it would seem. I’d take that to mean he actually grasps reality, rather than, say, economic theory.

      compare and contrast with, say, Theresa Gattung, or that silly old git that ran SCF….

      • Colonial Viper 9.2.1


        • terryg


          I am amused by the positions I am arguing in this thread.

          I am not in the least amused by NACT or King Gerrys performance. useless pricks.

          • Colonial Viper

            Useless rich pricks, I’ll have you know.

            • terryg


              is King Gerry rich? if so, how the fuck did he manage that? gravitational attraction?

              • Colonial Viper

                Well, he’s on $230,000 p.a. or so, a bit more than your starting wood working teacher, so not Jonkey rich but yeah 🙂

                • terryg


                  here’s a great example of where literally any fucking idiot could do those jobs TO THE CURRENT LEVEL OF PERFORMANCE – which is to say piss-poorly.

                  Betcha Orion wouldn’t hire King Gerry to take Roger Suttons job…..

  10. Jimmie 10

    For anyone else inflicted with green eyed envy if you wish to be in Mr Sutton’s shoes and earning in his salary bracket the answer is simple: go to Uni earn a business/commerce degree/doctorate, put in some long years working in the corporate world. Work diligently and make the most of your opportunities. Be prepared to work 6-7 days a week.

    If you don’t then stick with your 40 hours a week low skilled job earning 35K a year. Nothing wrong with that – just don’t cry a river every time you hear of some one earning a large salary package.

    It’s all about choices and making the most of your opportunities in life. Good choice = do well. Bad choice = do poorly.

    • Colonial Viper 10.1

      For anyone else inflicted with green eyed envy

      By playing the Right Wing politics of Greed and Envy you missed the point.

      The Government is willing to pay managers $500K p.a. at the same time as it makes homeless people live in caravans for $190 pw and to take away emergency income from Christchurch workers.

      It’s simply wrong and unfair.

      It’s all about choices and making the most of your opportunities in life. Good choice = do well. Bad choice = do poorly.

      Ignoring your bullshit Masters of the Universe meme, and the fact that society is not created by an individual, it is created by decisions made on a community and Government level

      the best choice is to move to Australia, according to your priorities, wouldn’t you agree?

      After all, that’s where all the corporate head office jobs are that you love so much.

      In fact, since 1/4 of our grads are doing just that, they must agree with you.

      If you don’t then stick with your 40 hours a week low skilled job earning 35K a year.

      English and Key are deliberately driving down NZ wages because it provides an “advantage” for capital owners,

      You back this, do you?

    • Zorr 10.2

      ugh… where to even begin… oh wait lets not

      Simply enough, we do not live in a meritocracy. The assumption that the correct/good choice leads to success and that people on the bottom only ended up there because they made poor choices is one of the more damaging misconceptions currently being peddled by RWNJs like yourself. There are a large number of factors that go in to making someone successful and the ability to work hard and make the right choices is the least of them. There are plenty of people doing the hard yards working 50+ hours per week and making all the correct choices for their situation who aren’t being paid half a million per year and, most likely, won’t ever earn over $50k pa.

      I have a degree. I have worked hard. I do my best to make the right choices every day. Currently I am sitting on the UB trying to find a job that I won’t be insta-rejected from for being overqualified and working on several business propositions that may get me out of this rut. However, if things do go ahead and I become “successful”, you want to know what the greatest contributing factor will have been? My family. Nothing else. Those people that raised me, gave me a work ethic and are currently proffering their own contact networks in order to get my aspirations off the ground. Hardly anyone has these advantages… if you have them, THEN the rest of it can come in to play. Not before.

      • Shona 10.2.1

        Couldn’t agree more. It is not what you know but who you know. We live in a mediocracy.Nepotism rules in NZ always has. Merit and ability do not come into it.Hence our best and brightest invariably end up elseswhere in the world. I have dozens of examples in my own family, who are Law, medicine ,science, engineering, education and arts grads who all live overseas.
        And we need a broad range of graduates , science graduates especially. More half wits with Bcoms are NOT what we need.

        • Colonial Viper

          is it mediocracy we live in, or a kleptocracy?

          Maybe both.

          • terryg

            agree, 1000% CV, Zorr, Shone, CV.

            Jimmy, a fair chunk of that is just a crock of shit. do you think being born into a household where the adults are literate helps? get read to as an infant? if so, by the time you went to school you had heard about 30,000,000 MORE WORDS than a kid born to illiterate parents – something over which YOU HAD NO CONTROL WHATSOEVER.

            do you think that affects primary and secondary education? and does that affect ones ability to get into tertiary education?

            now envision illiterate parents with drug/alcohol problems and a propensity for violence.

            now imagine being born in sub-Saharan Africa. See where this is going?

            Plus of course fuck commerce grads. Milton Friedman was an ignorant asshole who has been proved completely wrong (alas only by reality, not theoretically) in essentially every aspect.

            However, I too get pissed off with ignorant people who complain that I get paid more than they do*. I worked a shit job for 2 years,Dole for 1 then went to Uni, and got clobbered with about $21k SL over 6 years (at the very beginning of SLs) to get my degree. that got me a $34k junior engineer job, where I discovered (to my absolute horror) that I had a bunch of analytic tools, and no useful knowledge whatsoever – the real study began at work, and it has never stopped. Mind you, I never did finish my M.E. thesis *sigh*

            my choice. my rewards.

            BUT “my choice” would not have been possible without MASSIVE support from the state. A wise person remarked in another thread “ask a farmer where they learned to read, and whether or not thats important” (or words to that effect).

            THIS is why progressive taxation is a GOOD thing, not an EVIL thing.

            * actually showing them some of what I do usually fixes the problem – “how the hell do you know that” is a common question in response to book after book of maths, usually answered with “stay at school until youre 24**

            ** and while I was at school those extra 6 years or so accumulating debt, my cousin (same age as me, and left school early on to take a plumbing apprenticeship) – very smart guy, capable, hard worker but shit at formal schooling – was earning a good wage. 6 years of a good wage versus my $21k debt and effectively zero work experience.

            had he stayed as a wage worker, I would have caught up with him in about 8-10 years. Being the capable bugger he is, he bought a house very early on (despite lacking an accounting degree, he sure as shit understands how interest works), started his own successful plumbing business, hired a bunch of plumbers, bought a motel, etc….20 years later, and I’m getting pretty close. maybe 🙂

            Oh, and CV, Shona – a mediocratic kleptocracy mayhap?

    • Zetetic 10.3

      It’s not envy. It’s a question of how the government spends its limited resources. Paying far more than necessary for a service is silly.

    • Armchair Critic 10.4

      …if you wish to be in Mr Sutton’s shoes and earning in his salary bracket the answer is simple: go to Uni earn a business/commerce degree…
      I understand Mr Sutton’s undergraduate degree is in something useful, like engineering, rather than parasitic, like business/commerce.

    • Zetetic 10.5

      “f you wish to be in Mr Sutton’s shoes and earning in his salary bracket”

      I don’t want to be earning half a million a year. That would imply one person creating ten times the value of ten average people and I just don’t think that’s possible in the real world.

    • KJT 10.6

      One of them actually explained to me how you make the most of your opportunities.

      He could not understand why I would not do the same.

      Get to a management position.

      Make the company income look good by screwing down wages and stopping all investment in maintaining and replacing plant. Within three years use this to get another job on the strength of the increase in profits of the first company.
      Within 5 years the first company is screwed, but you are long gone.
      Rinse and repeat as many times as required until you have a million dollar salary and stock options.

      Seen it happen many times.

  11. Perhaps Zetitic, the salary is to compensate for the anonymous sniping of those such as yourself who seem determined to find fault barely before he’s reported for work. Even $500k is not a lot to compensate for a bitter,twisted few who can’t wait for him to fail.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Hey mate why dont you give me $500K p.a. i’ll put up with lots of anonymous sniping for $10K p.w.

  12. Jimmie 12

    Ignoring your bullshit Masters of the Universe meme, and the fact that society is not created by an individual, it is created by decisions made on a community and Government level

    Well this could be argued – however people as individuals have the ability to lift themselves out of their current situation – if they put their mind and creative ability to it.

    I know from personal experience – I left school with no quals at 14. Worked up to a job earning 40K at the age of 24. Left that and started again working at BK’s on 7.70 an hour. Worked up through several years.

    Currently running our own business with annual turn over of 450K plus.

    I’m no one special or exceptionally gifted – I have learned the hard way to make good choices in life and make the most of opportunities that come along.

    Any one is able to make the same choices – but often dont through lack of motivation or priorities.

    Oh yeah and before you say what a rich prick tax avoider – in the coming year we will pay around 40K in GST and 85K in income tax

    • Colonial Viper 12.1

      Well this could be argued – however people as individuals have the ability to lift themselves out of their current situation – if they put their mind and creative ability to it.

      Sure some people will manage to swim to safety ashore, but plenty more will drown on the way if they don’t get assistance.

      You OK with that then?

      I’m no one special or exceptionally gifted – I have learned the hard way to make good choices in life and make the most of opportunities that come along.

      This is your bullshit Masters of the Universe meme.

      Stuff goes wrong. Stuff goes off plan. You have an accident, you get sick, the plant you are at closes down and you lose your house, the finance company you put your life savings into disappears.

      Shit happens. What then? You run with the “you can sink or swim, not my problem” model?

      Seems to me like you are advertising that you earn in the top 0.75% of NZ’ers. How boorish. Fucking nouveaux rich prick, sounds like you pay too much tax, I suggest you get a better accountant.

      • terryg 12.1.1

        Jimmy, clearly you ARE “exceptional”. look how few people with that start in life do what you have done. it aint common – its the exception, not the rule.

        In order for you to be just “average” (technically median, but real people use the word average), wouldnt something like half of all 14yo school leavers be doing the same thing? I put it to you that they are not. they just drown.

        and CV I think thats an understatement.

        “Sure a few people will manage to swim to safety ashore, but most will drown on the way if they don’t get assistance”


        this is IMO where a lot of the “lazy bastards” meme comes from – not realising that the FEW are, indeed, the exception and not the rule.

        • Colonial Viper

          not realising that the FEW are, indeed, the exception and not the rule.

          Yep, their Masters of the Universe meme – “I am a self made man, my success is due solely to my own responsibility, efforts, energy and initiative, any one else can do the same thing if they were as good as me”

          And of course we know that there is no such thing as a “self made man” – for starters, every man needs a woman to give birth to him.

          • terryg


            and a family (of whatever form) to love and cherish hir – brains are 4-dimensional constructs (they dont so much form as are evolved. the old nature/nurture argument falls mostly on the side of heredity).

            was it 60minutes recently did another feature on the poor Fijian Indian chap who was left in a chicken coop for years, then tied to a bed for almost two decades.

            THAT is a very powerful demonstration of just how important nurture is. the poor bugger can barely even walk, and there is no way he will ever learn to talk – his brain development was compeltely and utterly ruined by his “upbringing” *ugh, it sickens me to even call it that).

            Kudos to the lady who is lavishing him with care and affection though. well done.

            • terryg

              oops, I originally wrote “heredity/hereditary argument” and translated it into english, but forgot to change the 2nd usage. it should read:

              The old nature/nurture argument falls mostly on the side of nature

  13. The Baron 13

    Don’t worry Zetty, you jealous little prick – he will be paying what, $120k+ a year in income taxes alone. Sounds to me like he is more than paying his fair share to Chch and the nation at large.
    On that note, what do you contribute to the collective good? Do you even have a job to make a contribution with?

    • Zetetic 13.1

      It’s taxpayer money being spent. Should be spent for maximum efficiency. Tell me how paying someone $500K for a job they want at any rate is maximum efficiency

      • PeteG 13.1.1

        What level of salary do you think would deliver “maximum efficiency”?
        What sort of person do you think could be found to work for that?

        • Zetetic

          Sutton was a given for the job. He accepted it before wage was decided.

          Only question was how much to pay him. Do you think he wouldn’t have done it for $50K a year, average wage? If he wouldn’t, go to 100K, until you find is minimum price.

          Every cent saved could have helped a family in need.

        • Colonial Viper

          14 May 2011 at 6:21 pm

          What level of salary do you think would deliver “maximum efficiency”?

          Another irrelevant question, as the Govt pays a manager half a million dollars a year, at the same time it is making homeless Christchurch families sleep in cold $190+ p.w. campervans.

  14. Rich 14

    I think it would make sense to have the PMs salary act as a cap for public service pay, with it being illegal for anyone in an SOE, government department or council to be paid more than the PM.

    In the huge Spanish cooperative Mondragon (about NZD30 billion turnover, bigger than any firm in NZ), nobody is allowed to earn more than a certain multiple (between three and nine times, depending on the business unit) of the lowest paid workers wage. They obviously manage to attract senior management on that basis.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Nice…Mondragon tends to attract talented senior management from within its own ranks. It doesn’t need to pay millions to hire frauds from corporate USA.

      Personally I think that the very top execs could get up to 20x the lowest paid full time employee ( a very Japanese ratio that), but 9x is acceptable as well.

      If you’re lowest paid staffer is on $40K p.a. the CEO might get $360K p.a. Not bad, all things considered.

      Unlike NZ’s Westpac CEO. Someone who probably gets paid 150x to 200x as much as his lowest paid employee.

      Ludicrous and unfair. A sign of a sick, societally useless corporate culture.

      • KJT 14.1.1

        The Japanese ratio is about 11%. Germany is 12%. As of 1985.

        Click to access group6.pdf

        New Zealand’s was 14% in 1985. Going by the relative pay rises in the last three years it will be about 20% now.

        We already covered this, but many of these high paid individuals cost more than they deliver.

        Corporatism & Neo-Liberalism

        Guess which economies are doing best?

        • terryg

          surely the fact that German and Japanese economies are doing so well cannot have anything to do with that.

          nor can it be related to the way Germany treats its workers.

          no, not at all.

          It must be some sort of statistical anomaly. All hail Friedman. USA! USA! USA!

  15. RedLogix 15

    The point is that all over the Anglo-American world senior executive salaries have risen all out of proportion to the actual value these people deliver. Roger Sutton’s case is nothing exceptional in this context.

    Indeed there is strong evidence that the more they are paid … the more they actually destroy company value. In light of this I believe that senior salaries should be limited by law to some multiple (say 5 times) the median income of the organisation they lead.

    • PeteG 15.1

      Are you going to be able to change the whole system of paying CEOs worldwide in time to get Christchurch rebuilt?

      • Zetetic 15.1.1

        don’t be facetious.

        • Jim Nald

          The job should come with a knighthood before the first month’s salary is drawn. Has some idiot forgotten to leave that out of the job description?
          That would do heaps for the collective good and, honestly, some here really need to understand the real world.

      • Colonial Viper 15.1.2

        Are you going to be able to change the whole system of paying CEOs worldwide in time to get Christchurch rebuilt?

        Hey buddy Australia pays better than NZ, why not bring NZ worker pay back into line with what workers get paid in real western economies, like Australia?

        Why is it only the bosses who get 1st world wages while workers get second-third world wages?

        • KJT

          Executive pay in NZ rose 14% this year.
          Most workers got nil or 2% rises against a rise in basic food costs of 35% in 3 years.

  16. It’s an interesting example of how salaries, in a free market, bear little relation to value. If they did then, presumably, if we offered a salary of $10,000,000 to someone to head CERA then we’d be getting twenty times more value from that person who was appointed than we can expect to get from Sutton. (Don’t believe me? Then why are some arguing that if we ‘only’ offered, say $200,000, we would get someone who would do a worse job than Sutton? How do they know?)

    In fact, why not go the whole hog and offer a couple of hundred million to head CERA – then Christchurch should be rebuilt by next week because we’d be getting some truly super-duper person who totally transcends the rest of us mere mortals.

    200mill … It would be a snip at that price, given the sums of money we’re talking about. Brownlee is just being a cheapskate.

    • terryg 16.1

      nicely put Puddleglum. +1 internets to you.

      Its a hop, skip and a jump from there into a discussion about Affluenza and the idiotic search for the best

      there isnt that large a gap between good enough and the best. its an exponential decay-type law – the closer you get, the smaller the effect of adding more cash becomes.

      Haute Couture (french for “ridiculous shit”) is a perfect example.

      Property prices are another. As one who understand climate change is real (and far, far worse than the IPCC suggests), I am constantly bemused by the “value” assigned to sea-front properties. I especially like those on cliff tops e.g. His Highness Lord Barry Curtis’ clifftop property. Hows that million-dollar view working out eh Bazza?

      neither the boxing day nor Japan Tsunamis appears to have had any effect there?!

      bring back Maslows hierarchy of human needs.

  17. ak 17

    Having had the dubious opportunity over a long lifetime of the most intimate connexion with more than enough of the massively overpaid individuals under discussion, I concur empahatically with RedLogix: the value-for-money paradigm is utterly risible – particularly in the business and financial sector as evidenced beyond the slightest doubt by the current economic situation.
    Any reference to “skills” for the current moronic mediocrati at the helm of our ships of commerce or state – including and especially our current political leader – is farcical: a random selection from the street-strolling populace of say Te Awamutu would elicit as much, if not more, common-sense and practical aptitude than the current crop of snake-oil con-men in control of our lives. The highest salaries and recompence currently paid is a grotesque farce and temporal aberration: a vicious self-serving and self-perpetuating spiral uneasily enjoyed by the few, temporarily tolerated by the many, and doomed to ultimate extinction by the relentless grind of historical sanity.

    • Colonial Viper 17.1

      Yep. A number of them are going to be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

      • terryg 17.1.1

        fingers crossed.

        bonus incentives are about as bad an idea as is possible to have – all they seem to do is encourage short-term profit mining (usually leading to long term failure).

        and worse than that, fucking up royally (e.g. the GFC) doesnt seem to make the slightest difference. WTF!

        An international “kill a merchant banker” day might do the trick.

        problem is, these bastards have all the money (400 US INDIVIDUALS control > 90% of ALL americas wealth) and private armies are a reality.

        Just ask a Syrian how well placards work against tank shells.

        the times are going to get VERY interesting.

  18. John D 18

    $500k is stuff all for a job like this.
    The head of the Royal Bank of Scotland is on about 15 million NZD equivalent.

    • Colonial Viper 18.1

      Hey is that the same RBS which collected roughly twenty billion quid in UK tax payer handouts? Wow that CEO must really be earning his money eh mate?

      Great example of ‘good value’ for the public purse, keep them coming buddy


      • John D 18.1.1

        I don’t approve of the RBS salary at all, especially in view of the bailout that you correctly point out.

        In fact, I regard the CEO of the RBS as a piece of slime.

        Roger Sutton, on the other hand, seems like a real hard worker and excellent at communicating information to the public.

        And he did take a $200k pay cut to get this job.

  19. randal 19

    this is a clear case of class discrimination. just as people can no longer work their way up in a bank or other jobs this job is clearly reserved for one of them and not one of us. crummy but thats progress dude.

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