John Key's hopes for a Rugby World Cup "party central" on Auckland's Queens Wharf have been quashed by Auckland's city councils, who have announced they will not pay for grand developments on the site.

An Auckland mayoral forum this morning rejected a $100 million development for Queens Wharf, which was bought by the Government and the Auckland Regional Council for $40 million last August to turn into a centrepiece for next year's World Cup.

Auckland ratepayers were expected to foot the bill for building on the site, with a $97 million development including a cruise ship terminal said to be preferred by the Government.

But that plan was rejected, and three other, cheaper plans for temporary structures also put on hold until a masterplan for the waterfront was developed, said Auckland City mayor John Banks.

"We don't have to get terribly excited about what will be on Queens Wharf ... there may be some party on Queens Wharf but there will be many parties all over New Zealand and all over Auckland."

Ponsonby Rd, Parnell Rd, the Viaduct, a revamped Aotea Square and a new maritime events centre on the waterfront would all become "party central", Mr Banks said.

Mark Ball, who chaired the mayoral forum, said there was now time to decide what smaller-scale facilities could be arranged on Queens Wharf for the Rugby World Cup.

Most ratepayers probably did not even know what had been proposed with their money, Mr Ball said.

"Let's do it once and do it right. Having the public come on board for us - that's got to have a far better result than a few people to look at lovely pictures and make a decision that will have an impact on our grandchildren."

But regional council chairman Mike Lee said the Auckland mayors' decision was a failure of nerve and leadership.

There had been no vote at the meeting but a majority of Auckland's mayors had opposed contributing to Queens Wharf plans, Mr Lee said.

"We will have to talk to the Government about where to go from here.

"Only three out of eight supported to do anything; the rest were for resting on their hands."

Plans for Queens Wharf has floundered for months, with a public design competition last year scrapped after Mr Lee called the finalists' designs "lacklustre, underwhelming and mediocre".

Four new designs were unveiled last week, but now they, too, have been stalled.

The mayoral forum also decided today it would underwrite $40 million for Eden Park to help it get loans to complete its upgrade in time for the Rugby World Cup.