A nine-year bureaucratic wrangle to extend the garden at an 1850s stone cottage in Panmure was a case of giving communities the power to get things done under the Super City, MPs heard yesterday.

Frustrated members of the Panmure Community Action Group told MPs how the proposed garden was still a carpark and the estimated cost for the project had risen to nearly $400,000.

The community group was appearing before the Auckland governance legislation select committee on the first day of public hearings on the Government's Super City plan for Auckland.

The committee is travelling around Auckland listening to about 800 submissions on the plan to abolish the region's eight councils and replace them with a single Super Auckland Council, a single mayor and 20 to 30 local boards under the main body.

Panmure Community Action Group chairman Howard Sutton said the 1989 local government reforms had been a disaster and led to "divorce" between councils and community boards.

He said the Government needed to legislate the powers, functions and funding requirements of the local boards - the new name for community boards.

That way, said group deputy chairman Keith Sharp, a properly funded and resourced body could complete the garden project in a fraction of the time and at much lower cost.

Speaking at his post-cabinet press conference yesterday, Prime Minister John Key said at the end of the select committee process Aucklanders should expect to see beefed up powers for local boards that "reflect the diverse communities that they serve".

Mr Key, whose Government has copped a public backlash over its handling of the Super City shake-up, said he was delighted at how many people had got involved with the select committee process.

"I want to reiterate that the Government approaches this process with an open mind. We are listening to Aucklanders," Mr Key said.

Peter McKinlay, the director of the local government centre at Auckland University of Technology, said the clutter of local services should be removed from the Auckland Council to allow it to focus on regional issues.

That would remove parochialism from the Auckland Council and allow a strong mayor model with checks and balances, like London, to create an effective regionwide decision-making body.

Mr McKinlay said the Canadian cities of Toronto and Ottawa were now saying they had got it wrong by putting regionwide and local services under one body.

David McGregor, a trustee on the Parnell Community Trust, told MPs he resigned from the Hobson community board after spending three years being an "institutionalised wailing wall".

Mr McGregor, a senior partner at law firm Bell Gully, said community boards did not work in their current form and it was imperative the local boards were given real power.

City Vision, the left-wing ticket on Auckland City Council, also urged MPs to increase the powers of local boards to properly represent communities of interest.

Deputy chairwoman Gwen Shaw said: "All decisions that can be made locally, should be made locally."

City Vision also called for 25 to 30 members on the Auckland Council - the Government has recommended 20 - and wants the mayors and councillors elected by the single transferable voting system.