Aucklanders can be very cruel. Twenty-three of our more masochistic fellow citizens offer themselves up for election as inaugural Super City mayor and what do we do?

We decide we'd rather put the future of the city in the hands of Bob Parker, a former television host who brought warm fuzzies to our living rooms 20 years ago presenting shows such as Skellerup Young Farmer of the Year and This is Your Life.

Sure, the television nice guy turned Christchurch Mayor has been getting a dream run on our screens for the past two weeks, playing Mother Theresa to his earthquake-stricken citizens, but admiring Mr Parker's flawless performance after the earth moved is hardly a qualification for plucking him from afar and anointing him Auckland's new cheerleader.

That 36 per cent of Aucklanders, even in jest, told Herald-DigiPoll surveyors they would prefer Mr Parker as mayor over any of the real candidates suggests not just a lack of enthusiasm for those standing, but widespread cynicism and disillusion about the revolutionary changes being imposed on the region.

This is reflected in the fact that only 26.3 per cent see themselves as being better off under the new Auckland Council - a significant drop on the 31.2 per cent recorded in the May poll.

Of the real candidates, only two are in the running, Manukau Mayor Len Brown on 29.8 per cent and his Auckland City counterpart, John Banks, on 27.8 per cent. Way behind in third spot is businessman Colin Craig, below the 3.6 per cent margin of error on 1.9 per cent, and beneath him, North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams on 1 per cent. The "don't knows" have increased from 27.9 per cent in the August poll to 35.2, and that is among people who say they intend to vote. But if they still haven't made up their minds after a campaign already a year long, the suspicion must be that many of these well-intentioned voters will join the non-voting ranks.

The failure of any mayoral candidate to emerge as the heroic leader figure the masterminds of the Super City envisaged must be something of a nightmare for them. At the apex of their dream city was to be the God-like visionary mayor. This giant among politicians was to lead us out of the backwaters of the South Pacific into the ranks of World City status. Instead, we seem poised to elect a recycled mayor - either from Auckland or Manukau - whose legitimacy will be based on the minority support he received from the minority of eligible voters who bothered to cast a vote.

As someone who has been uncomfortable with this Messiah model of leadership from the start, I'm rather relieved that Auckland local politics seems to be reverting to type - though on a grander scale.

What it means is that short of a last-minute miracle, our new mayor will not be able to lord it over his council with claims of a legitimacy to rule based on majority support from the popular vote. And if he does attempt to put on airs and graces, councillors, and the media, will be able to remind him that he is there only because Bob Parker was too busy in Christchurch cleaning up after the earthquake to take it on.

As a minority mayor, our new leader will be dependent on his ability and willingness to adapt to whichever hand of councillors the electoral lottery deals him. The outcome of that contest is anyone's guess.

Like the mayoral race, the city council election has become more about name recognition and personality than policy. It is about which of the existing 109 councillors from across the region are going to squeeze into the 20 council seats now available around the new council table.

With the majority of contenders hiding behind the misleading label "independent", even the political makeup of the first Auckland Council is unclear. It could well be that Len Brown ends up presiding over a rightist council or John Banks has a leftist majority to come to terms with. Either way, Auckland might then need the nice Bob Parker - to adjudicate.