Mon, May 6, 2024 10:20 AM

MP Jamie Arbuckle to keep two jobs – and two salaries


Maia Hart

Jamie Arbuckle, the Marlborough councillor who became an MP, says he has settled into having two roles so comfortably he’s going to keep both salaries after all.

There’s been a lot of video calls from his office in Wellington, but it’s meant he’s made it to most of the meetings at the Marlborough District Council since being elected to Parliament as an NZ First MP in October.

At the time, he said he felt juggling the two roles would be easy enough until Christmas 2023, and said he would hand his council remuneration back after that, should he feel he could not give the job his all.

But, for now, he said he was keeping up and did not feel that was necessary.

“At the moment, I believe I'm still doing the job of a councillor,” Jamie says.

He would look at this again in October, when he would be able to resign without the council having to replace him and hold a costly by-election.

Marlborough councillors with no additional responsibilities earned $40,250, but those who sat on committees earned extra. Jamie is on the economic finance committee.

Jamie Arbuckle makes his way into the House of Representatives debating chamber in February. Photo: Robert Kitchin/The Post

The current base salary of an MP was $163,961, not including office expenses, superannuation, accommodation supplements and other benefits.

Six months into his job in Parliament, Jamie said nothing could have quite prepared him for it.

“It's great to have local government experience, but, things move very, very quickly."

Jamie said he still pinched himself that he was there.

“It's a really unreal feeling when you're sitting in the house and the debates are happening.”

Since the term started, Jamie had been confirmed as deputy chair of the justice select committee and a member of the finance and expenditure select committee.

He was also elected party whip in December, which he thought had been a good move.

“It’s actually worked quite well because I had that role on the board of New Zealand First,” Jamie said.

“In some ways, that's been quite a good crossover.

“It's funny because it depends how you want to look at my political career.

“I was always out in the forest, wasn't I? Like, I could never get to the chairmanships.

“All of a sudden to go into Government and get these quite important roles - like, I’ve had experience chairing committees but I was never anyone’s first pick in local government.”

He admitted suddenly changing meeting schedules within council had sometimes made it hard to attend everything in person.

“I haven't asked for any schedule to be set around me,” Jamie said.

“But it makes it harder if the schedule changes with quick notice.”

He stood by his decision to do both.

Jamie Arbuckle attends council economic, finance and community committee meeting via video call on April 30. Photo: Robert Kitchin/The Post

“I guess I'm always going to be biased, but having five terms on council, it's been quite valuable going to even my caucus talking about things like Marlborough’s roads.”

He said when he sat at the council table, he felt he was just a councillor, not an MP, despite the odd jab from his colleagues who want to see some support from central government for various things.

“I'm not acting as an MP, as such, I guess that there is a few people at the moment putting titles to me, but that’s part of being a politician,”  Jamie said.

“I have a right to sit there [council]. I have a right to say the opinions of my constituents and, yeah, at the end of the day, I'm quite happy to do that.”

He said the days were long.

“Sometimes the house is operating generally to 10 o'clock at night, but under urgency, it's running until 12am,” Jamie said.

“Then you've still got all these other subcommittees happening.”

The highlight was simply just being there, he said.

“Just the fact of being able to go into Parliament, and basically live my dream in that sense,” he said.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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