Rodney Hide writes on the place he thinks local boards will have in Auckland

As Minister of Local Government, I am determined that Auckland's Local Boards will have a meaningful role in the future of Auckland's governance. I want to put the "local" back into local government.

That's why I welcome the recent discussion document released by the Auckland Transition Agency (ATA) outlining its proposals for the decision-making roles and functions of local boards.

The agency's task was to achieve an appropriate balance between local and regional decision making, and the document shows that we are well on the way to achieving that. The next step is to get feedback from Aucklanders.

The Auckland Council will have two complementary decision-making levels. The mayor and 20 councillors elected from across the region (known as the governing body) will focus on the crucial region-wide strategic decisions and issues.

The local boards will represent their local communities and make decisions on local issues, activities and facilities.

Local boards will strengthen community representation and are key to encouraging Aucklanders to become actively engaged in local and through their local boards, also Auckland-wide issues.

In working out proposals for the decision-making roles and functions of local boards, the transition agency has worked from the principle that decisions should be made locally unless there is a good reason not to.

Rather than ask why the local boards should undertake certain activities, the agency has asked, why not?

Its discussion discussion document lists proposed local board's powers and responsibilities in detail. The default position is that local government decisions will be made locally by local boards.

They include some regulatory and non-regulatory roles - consultation with communities, engagement with the proposed Council Controlled Organisations and negotiation with the governing body to set local board budgets and service levels in local areas.

Their responsibilities and decisions will include oversight and decisions with respect to local facilities, like swimming pools and parks, community programmes and local services such as refuse collection and graffiti control, and some regulatory responsibilities.

These are important responsibilities. That is why local boards are much more than community boards. They are bigger, are established by law, and stand independently of the mayor and councillors.

Local boards will be the face of local government. Most citizens of Auckland will engage more with their local boards than with the governing body of the new Auckland Council. While some local services could be delivered through local boards, it is important for ratepayers that we don't create costly local centres doing things that are better managed regionally. Many decisions are best made at a regional level.

The reason is simple. Auckland is a great city covering a substantial region. Accordingly, the new governance structure will support:

* Regional thinking, strategic planning and decisive action.

* Better connections across the Auckland region.

* Better value from rates and central government funding.

* Strengthened community representation with control of what matters locally.

The Local Government Commission will meet on March 11. Their draft determination proposed 19 local boards for the Auckland region. There has been an energetic public discussion about whether the commission got it right.

The commission has received submissions on their draft decision, and like everyone else I am looking forward to seeing the results of their independent deliberations.

The Auckland Transition Agency document is released for public feedback, and I encourage people to participate.

Getting the local boards' powers and decision-making responsibilities right is an essential part of getting the local back into local government. People can have your say by making a submission.

I am excited by the progress we are making, encouraged by the involvement of Aucklanders in the process, and remain committed to ensuring that Auckland can meet the challenges of being a truly world-class city for our children and grandchildren.

Note: The Auckland Transition Agency's proposals for Council Controlled Organisations are contained within a separate document.

* Rodney Hide is the Minister of Local Government and MP for Epsom.