‘Paid a six figure salary’: Do city councilors have a side hustle?

Being a Christchurch city councilor could be seen as a full-time job. As they prepare to be sworn in today, reporter Tina Grumball asks if any of them have other work on the side.

Victoria Henstock – elected to represent Papanui – is the only new councilor who was bringing something else with her to the role.

“I’ll continue my charitable board appointments and otherwise be a full-time councilor,” she said.

She said she was the bishop’s representative on a Catholic school board and is the chair of a charitable trust; both positions take about two hours a week of her time.

Though Henstock was a consultant for a Wellington-based consultancy service, she has nothing in the pipeline.

If a part-time contract came up, she would consider it.

The others with additional commitments had been re-elected and included fifth term Fendalton councillor, James Gough, who sat on a couple of boards for various companies.

His involvement in Medical Kiwi, The Terrace Christchurch Ltd, and his own property interests took up “pretty minimal time”, he said.

“First and foremost, I am a city councilor and I would never take anything else on that impeded my ability to give them my full attention.”

He, and many returning councillors, said that while the hours fluctuated, the job required “more than a full-time” devotion.

“Work-life balance when you’re a city councilor just doesn’t exist . . . you never switch off from it.”

Second term Waimari councillor, Sam MacDonald agreed he never really switched off from council.

Alongside his council responsibilities, MacDonald – a chartered accountant by trade – also worked casually on a small accounting project in the North Island.

Though it required no more than 10 to 15 hours a week of working from home, usually in the evenings.

He was also an independent trustee on Development West Coast.

Cashmere councilor for his fourth term, Tim Scandrett said he wound up his business nine years ago to become a full-time councillor.

Though, he is the executive director of ShowBiz Christchurch and the director of Venues Otautahi; the latter may change as the council rejigs roles for the new term.

“Council work does fluctuate depending on the issues that are prevalent and it’s the same with both of those boards,” he said.

Re-elected for her third term as Spreydon councillor, Melanie Coker said she was no longer at a full-time capacity as director of her company AHeadStart.

In 2020, The Star revealed Coker spent 30 hours a week fulfilling her city council duties and 30 hours managing the tutoring business.

Her role at the company now required “very little” time and she just made sure things were running smoothly.

She is also on the board of the Summit Road Society and the Christchurch Primary Health Organisation.

Aaron Keown, fourth term Harewood councillor, disagreed with his fellow councilors somewhat.

“I don’t know that it is . . . full-time. Some claim that. . . but it’s up to the individual,” he said.

“The salary would suggest it’s full-time, don’t get me wrong, it’s a good salary, but a fifth of our staff at council are paid more than us and they’re full-time.”

Keown said he owned and ran two businesses on a part-time basis, using evening and weekend time.

Those were the Jurassic Adventure mini golf course and Murder Mystery Dinner Theater.

He also did about 50 shows a year in corporate entertainment.

“For me it gels pretty easily.”

Four new councilors said they were intending to come into council as full-time councillors.

Newly elected Banks Peninsular council, Tyrone Fields, said “it’s what people voted me in for”.

However, he was still heavily invested in his work and would be going through the four-week notice period at Oranga Tamariki.

In Riccarton, new councilor Tyla Harrison-Hunt said he was stepping away from his consulting role completely and his business, Crossover Coach New Zealand Ltd, was already self-managing and there were a number of staff who would take over the reigns.

“There’s so much. . . that needs to be done in Riccarton,” he said.

Kelly Barber, taking over Major Phil Mauger’s role as Burwood councillor, said his full-time employment at a healthcare company would “change significantly” in the coming months and he would move to a “limited role”.

He was committed to the city council, but said there needed to be an allowance early on out of respect for the company he came from.

When The Star spoke to Mark Peters, the new Hornby councillor, he was packing up his desk at the land surveying company.

“My day job of 17 years has come to an end so I can concentrate on council,” he said.

“I’ve really got to get my feet under the desk at council, and see what hours could be available at all for any sort of part-time work, but my intention is to concentrate fully on council.”

He would not mind keeping his experience current as the land surveying industry was advancing technologically.

The other six councilors did not have any other job at all.

New Halswell councillor, Andrei Moore said he was “fizzing, itching and ready to get to work for Halswell with no other commitments”.

“In my view, this is a 50, 60 hour plus week job and a seven day a week job.”

Re-elected by 16 votes, Innes councillor Pauline Cotter said that there was not much time for another job or anything else as a city councillor.

“The hours are very random, so you could be working any time from 7am through to nine or 10pm at night.”

Yani Johanson, in his sixth term as Linwood councillor, said he did not have another job.

“Most weeks it would be full-time, there would be some weeks where it’s more than full-time,” he said.

Re-elected for a third term as Heathcote councillor, Sara Templeton said she had nothing else, “only council”.

Also without any other job, Celeste Donovan said she had not had a quiet week yet at the city council and frequently worked evenings and weekends.

“When I came on council in 2021. . . one of the things I said was that I was 100 per cent committed to doing this as my primary job and . . . I think that really it’s more than a full time job.”

Second term Central councilor Jake McLennan was of a similar mindset and did not hold another job.

“We’re always on duty, that’s part of it as well. It’s a full-time job plus. It’s definitely not a cruisey 40 hour week,” he said.

“My belief is when you’re paid a six figure salary to represent Christchurch, that is your sole professional focus. That is the only job you should have, that’s the only job I have.”

The councilors and Mayor Phil Mauger will be sworn in on Tuesday.

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