The incumbent — Phil Goff. The challenger — John Tamihere.
Incumbent Auckland mayor Phil Goff has failed to fire with New Zealand business leaders who want him to focus and step up the pace if he gets another term in next month's local government elections.
CEOs and directors responding to the Mood of the Boardroom survey were asked to rate incumbent Goff on a scale where 1 = not very well at all and 10 = exceptionally well. He received a fairly average grade of 4.88/10.
But despite this low score, when asked who has the best attributes to be Auckland's mayor between Goff and mayoral hopeful John Tamihere, 73 per cent picked Goff.
Throughout the campaign, Tamihere has made a name for himself — suggesting a two-level harbour bridge crossing, an 0800 JACINDA phone number to report homelessness, and selling off the council-owned Watercare in order to fund infrastructure projects.
Goff, meanwhile, has argued he is a steady pair of hands with the experience needed in order to bring better public transport and cleaner water to Auckland.
Survey respondents tend to agree with this, commenting that Goff is more "practical and experienced", and has the best knowledge of the issues that are important to Auckland.
Beca CEO Greg Lowe says Goff is more capable than John Tamihere, and understands the challenges of running Auckland better.
But he advises that: "Phil could be more aspirational though on where Auckland is heading, to develop a compelling vision we can all buy into."
Lowe says a vision would help clarify city priorities and provide a clearer platform for discussion with central government.
One of the country's leading bankers says: "Phil Goff may be a bit of a geek, but you know he'll be diligent and across the detail".
Barfoot & Thompson's chief executive Peter Thompson says though Goff has the best attributes for mayor, it's a close call.
"He knows the issues the city is facing and if elected he needs to act and fix," he says.
"We need to see where our petrol tax is going to and we need to see timelines for the infrastructure — not just saying these are issues and then form committees to look into."
A government relations boss reckons "Goff is dangerously autocratic, but he's bright — whereas JT is fun but mad".
But there were also a sizeable number who commented "neither" when asked to choose between the two leading mayoral candidates.
"Not sure I feel great about either — where is the focus on running a great city as a business and its effectiveness?", questioned Foodstuff's Chris Quin.
"Disappointed neither candidate is a woman," said an internet retail boss.
"The test is of commercial acumen and governance ability," said independent director Dame Alison Paterson.
Just 11 per cent of respondents chose former Labour Cabinet Minister John Tamihere as the mayoral candidate with the best attributes to become mayor of New Zealand's biggest city.
"It has come down for me to anyone but Goff," says one prominent chairperson who preferred the challenger over the incumbent.
But despite not necessarily choosing Tamihere as their preferred candidate, some CEOs say he is raising important issues and offering visionary thought.
A leading banker says he will vote Tamihere because he is "looking for a mayor who will shake the hell out of the huge bureaucracy which Auckland Council and its CCOs (council controlled organisations) have become".
Another respondent says Tamihere has made some "valuable contributions on CCO transparency, the port move, stopping light rail to the airport and utilising existing heavy rail connections".
Says Barfoot and Thompson's Peter Thompson: "If Tamihere gets the facts and shows strong reasoning, he will go close in the election. At least he is addressing the issues."
Mark Franklin, managing director of Stevenson Group says he likes some of the things Tamihere talks about, but "he loses me when he makes stuff up and makes promises that he can't afford". Franklin suggests though Tamihere is getting some cut-through, he would be more credible with costed policy.
"I think that JT thinks the Trumpian method might carry him through," he says.
Auckland Business Chamber's chief executive Michael Barnett says Tamihere began with a focus on the basics, but has since chosen to try to be a visionary. "The problems Auckland faces are here and now, and his change will cost him any chance of winning," he says.
This was the sentiment from many when asked whether Tamihere's campaign promises — such as a rates freeze and replacing the harbour bridge with a double decker megastructure — offer a credible alternative to Goff.
Only 9 per cent of respondents say they do, 77 per cent say no, and 14 per cent are unsure. Many worry that some of his ideas are "all talk, incompatible objectives" and lack the detail needed to be realistic.
"I don't think anyone anybody takes Tamihere's Auckland bridge proposal seriously," says one professional director.
A leader in NZ wine exports opines: "A rates freeze will mean Auckland will spend another decade not improving infrastructure. Choosing Christine Fletcher to 'shake things up' with him is a joke."
A professional director pleads to the electorate: "John Tamihere would be like voting for Donald Trump — please don't!"
Says another: It's dreamland and God help Auckland if he becomes mayor."
Top priorities for the next mayor of Auckland
Improving public transport
Public-private partnerships and city bonds to fund large infrastructure projects
Bringing Auckland Council spending under control
Selling council assets to fund new infrastructure
Improving how council works alongside the Government
Shifting the port away from the city
Building more roads to reduce congestion
Implementation of the Unitary Plan
Reducing council staff numbers
Planting trees to improve the environment
New double decker harbour bridge
73% of respondents believe Phil Goff would be the best mayor
11% of respondents believe John Tamihere would be the best mayor.