Auckland Mayor Len Brown has used his casting vote to accept a compromise proposal by the city-owned port company to stop extending the shorter of its two wharf extensions into Waitemata Harbour.

That followed an eight-eight split in Auckland Council's governing body this afternoon, in response to a last-minute company offer to stop building a 92-metre western extension until a port future study can be completed by April 30 next year.

The resulting decision, allowing contractors to keep working on a 98m eastern extension, came four weeks after councillors voted unanimously to ask Ports of Auckland to halt all work pending the study.

Mr Brown acknowledged that the compromise was an "imperfect solution" but said he could not support an alternative prospect flagged by Waitemata councillor Mike Lee of sacking port company chairman Graeme Hawkins.

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"That would be an abject failure by this organisation," he said at the end of a feisty two-hour debate.

"That's not me in my leadership role - that's not what I do.

"I am trying to get a compromise to get this city and community going forward."

The resolution has been swiftly condemned by protest group Stop Stealing Our Harbour, which called it "nothing short of a one-fingered salute to the people of Auckland."

"The mayor needs to show some backbone and man up - one wharf is one wharf too many, " said spokesman Michael Goldwater.

Even deputy mayor Penny Hulse, in seconding Mr Brown's resolution, called it "a dead rat to eat."

But she said the economic, social and environmental future of Auckland had to be considered, and even the Generation Zero youth group favoured shipping rather than trucking in goods as the most sustainable way of serving the city's needs.

Mr Lee said the port company was only talking about a prospect of four cruise ships being unable to call at Auckland during a one-year halt to its wharf extensions, yet it had been able to accommodate the Queen Mary II since 2008 "and there are not too many bigger than that."

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"Games are being played here," he said.

"This council has to stick to its guns."

Former Auckland City mayor Christine Fletcher said the council had been "trifled with" by the port company since the unanimous decision by councillors through the city's development committee on April 1 to ask it to wait until the port study could be completed.

And Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer said allowing the company to keep working on the longest of the two extension, amid public concern about narrowing the harbour channel, was akin to "when your 14-year-old son comes home with two R18 movies and you say he can watch one of them."

But Manukau councillor Alf Filipaina said there had been little talk in his ward about the issue and his Manurewa-Papakura counterpart Calum Penrose asked who would provide jobs to "put food on the table" for the million extra Aucklanders expected by 2041.

"The Ports of Auckland is the most important part of Auckland, like the Auckland International Airport, to build our city," he said.

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"I say, let's get on with it - we've got SHA [special housing areas] coming down our throats."