A grassroots campaign for a living wage is taking root, with hope for workers in Auckland and Wellington.
Councils in both cities have agreed to investigate a $5 pay increase for council employees and contracted workers on the minimum wage.
Campaigners hope central government and businesses will follow.
A new bridge in the Auckland suburb of Bayswater cost Auckland Council $2.5 million. It would be about the same to bridge the gap between the minimum wage and a living wage for council staff for a year.
Auckland mayor Len Brown and his fellow councillors have agreed to investigate whether it would be feasible to introduce a living wage.
"We at the very least owe it to all parts of our community to be seriously assessing whether or not we can achieve this within the overall context of good prudent, financial management," says Mr Brown.
That means within existing budgets, so ratepayers won't have to stump up for the increase.
Mr Brown made the commitment last night at a public meeting in south Auckland, where many of the audience earned the minimum wage of just less than $14.
"They may not be in poverty but [they are] certainly struggling with what they are earning presently," says Reverand Robert Robati-Mani.
A living wage has been assessed as $18.40 an hour. Most council employees already earn above that. It's the contractors who'd benefit most.
"The poorest workers in the city are contracted workers, and the council actually has the power to make a decision to procure services on the basis of a living wage," says living wage advocate Annie Newman. "That would transform the lives of so many Auckland cleaners and security workers and waste workers."
Wellington Council has also agreed to pursue a living wage for its staff and investigate how it could be implemented.
Labour leader David Cunliffe has called for the same for government workers and contractors.
The next step will have to wait until after the council elections.
A living wage was introduced in London eight years ago by former left-wing mayor Ken Livingstone. His right-wing replacement, Boris Johnson, was such a fan he pressed the central government to adopt one, saying not only were there obvious benefits for workers, but that it was good for staff recruitment and retention.