Business leaders want an alternative candidate to John Banks and Len Brown to sharpen the leadership contest for the Super City - but no one from their ranks wants to swap the boardroom for the political bearpit.

Half of respondents in the Herald's 2010 survey of mostly Auckland chief executives believe a new mayoral candidate should be sought to contest the leadership of the Super City at the October local body elections.

Just 17 per cent of the 95 chief executives surveyed were satisfied with the two heavyweight mayors of Auckland City and Manukau.

Asked to rate the contenders' leadership attributes, they gave Mr Banks a rating average of 3 out of 5. Mr Brown scored 2.5. Mr Banks outscored Mr Brown on 10 attributes bar one - the ability to form support within council of competing interests.

The survey spells bad news for Mr Banks, who as a former National Party Cabinet minister and experienced businessman would have expected a bigger vote of confidence from city power-brokers.

Even Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett, a member of the right-wing Citizens & Ratepayers ticket supposedly supportive of Mr Banks' mayoral bid, has put the boot in.

"Most Aucklanders were expecting a tough challenge for this role. So far they have been disappointed," he said.

It is also a blow for Mr Brown, whose council has forged strong relations with business in South Auckland.

Mr Banks, whose campaign got the wobbles this week with questions over his expenses, refused to comment on the survey. He has also gone quiet about his vision on Tuesday to bring the Olympics to Auckland in 2020 at a cost of billions of dollars - and widely criticised as a flight of fancy and a diversion from his expenses.

Yesterday, Prime Minister John Key said staging the Olympics on the scale of Sydney, Beijing or London was unaffordable and the possibility of bidding for a lower-cost option would be a long way in the future, if ever.

Mr Brown said he was not surprised by the findings of the survey, given that few of the city's chief executives knew him well.

"Most of them would know John pretty well, given his long political and business career, so it's probably more of a concern to him.

"My base is in the community, where I have very strong support, but the business community should look at Manukau's track record of strong growth and business-friendly council if they want to know what kind of mayor I will be," he said.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern) chief executive, Alasdair Thompson, said feedback he had got from business leaders was that Mr Banks and Mr Brown were "okay candidates".

But given that the Super City mayor would play more of an executive role (than previous mayors), they wanted someone who was not a career politician and more business-minded to run the Auckland Council, he said.

Big names such as The Warehouse boss Sir Stephen Tindall, Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe and former Prime Minister Dame Jenny Shipley have run for cover when colleagues have whispered their names as leadership material for the Super City.

All three have said they are sticking to business and giving politics a wide berth for now.

CEO VIEWS
* 'We only have one shot at an internationally competitive city that can attract top talent and investment'
- Media boss

* 'Len Brown's recent conduct causes me to question his judgment'
- Major exporter

* 'The first mayor needs to be a consensus builder so that the various factions can move towards common ground'
- Foodstuffs' Tony Carter