Key Points:

A beefed-up Auckland Regional Council needs to delve into social issues and rejuvenate suburbs like Otara, Mangere and Papatoetoe, the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Auckland Governance heard yesterday.

Former North Shore Mayor George Wood and former regional councillor Wyn Hoadley called for a collective approach on economic and social issues to tackle issues such as health, housing, job shortages and education.

Speaking at a public hearing in Takapuna, Mrs Hoadley said the Auckland Regional Council had carried out world-leading research on environmental protection work and the same could be done for social issues.

Mr Wood said Auckland had become a divided society and it was not in the long-term interests of the region to have a fortress-like attitude in better-off areas like the North Shore. "I don't want my grandchildren growing up in a city with more crime," he said.

Poor housing had led to health, education and shocking social issues, particularly in South Auckland. Housing New Zealand had started upgrading some of its 20,000 state houses, but it was only scratching the surface, Mr Wood said.

In a joint submission, the former politicians said the region needed to build strong communities and this required a comprehensive redevelopment of suburban housing projects of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Panmure, Glen Innes, Northcote, Otara, Mangere and Papatoetoe.

They said a recent Government initiative for a single house design to reduce consenting delays and cut building costs could become a reality if regional and central government leaders worked together.

Commissioner Dame Margaret Bazley, a former director-general of Social Welfare and former chief executive of the Ministry of Social Policy, liked the idea of social research at a local level.

In fact, all three commissioners - chairman Peter Salmon, QC, a retired High Court judge; David Shand and Dame Margaret - were impressed with the submission. They called it "excellent", "top notch" and "carefully prepared and helpful".

Mr Wood and Mrs Hoadley proposed a beefed-up regional council made up of 13 elected councillors. A mayor, elected at large, would appoint a further five councillors with auditing, finance and economic skills necessary on a body dealing with large sums of money.

Below that, they propose 13 boroughs made up of 11 elected representatives. The boroughs, representing about 100,000 people, would be responsible for local issues, such as parks, local roads and projects, and be able to set local rates.

They also want an interim commissioner to manage the transition, which, in the words of Mr Wood, would prevent any "hanky panky" from the out-going councils.

Their submission was followed by views at opposite ends of the spectrum. North Shore councillor Tony Holman spoke against a single super city, a lord mayor elected at large and large bureaucratic bodies.

Mr Holman told the commission to be careful to avoid a concentration of power, saying the current three-tier system provided a series of checks and balances.