Sky high pay

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Queenstown Airport’s boss is in the same pay bracket as the Prime Minister for the last financial year after receiving up to half a million dollars.

CEO Colin Keel was paid between $490,000 and $500,000 in the financial year ending June 30.

For the previous year Keel, a qualified lawyer, earned between $360,000 and $370,000, according to Queenstown Airport Corporation’s (QAC) annual report.

That means, at the lower end of the bracket, he’s earning roughly $235 an hour.

QAC spokeswoman Naomi Lindsay claims the pay gap between the two years is purely down to timing and won’t confirm whether Keel received a pay rise.

Board boss Prue Flacks couldn’t be reached by Mountain Scene for comment.

Lindsay says Keel got his first year of full pay and benefits in the last financial year, after starting in the role on June 1, 2016.

Keel tells Mountain Scene: “The amounts set out in the ‘remunerations of employees’ … show the total remuneration and benefits received within each bracket.

“The remuneration bracket in question did not include the total remuneration and benefits available for this role due to the timing of the individual’s commencement date in financial year 2016, whereas it does for financial year 2018.”

Despite Keel starting in the role just before the end of the 2016 financial year, he says a direct comparison can’t be made between the following two financial years, for 2017 and 2018.

He’s overseen the airport announcing its controversial proposals to expand its noise boundaries into residential areas around Queenstown as part of its long-term growth plan.

A total of 75.01% of the airport’s owned by Queenstown’s council – the remaining 24.99 per cent’s owned by Auckland International Airport Ltd after it bought the shares for $27.7 million in a controversial “strategic alliance” in 2010.

This year’s annual report shows its revenue went up 17 per cent to $45.7m, and its underlying profit soared 21 per cent to $14.9m.

In the last financial year QAC paid its directors and key management staff a total of $1,744,782 – up more than $300,000 on the previous year.

Its six-member board of directors was paid a total of $271,000, rising from $184,000 in the 2017 financial year.

Keel’s full pay package for the last financial year is in the same bracket as the total salary and allowance for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, whose package is $493,655.

But others with similar roles to his have eye-watering pay packets.

Auckland Airport boss Adrian Littlewood got a pay rise of $317,000 in the last financial year, taking his salary up to an astounding $3.6 million, according to the airport’s financial results.

Christchurch Airport CEO Malcolm Johns received a handsome $721,000 in the 2017 financial year.

Johns replaced Queenstown’s mayor Jim Boult in that role at the beginning of 2014 – Boult held the job from 2009 to 2013.

Wellington Airport’s highest earning employee in the last financial year took home between $820,001 and $830,000.

The airport won’t confirm that staffer is CEO Steven Sanderson – who once had Keel’s job in Queenstown.

By comparison, Stats NZ figures show the median weekly income for individuals in New Zealand was $997 for the year ending June 2018.

That works out about $51,850 a year.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz