Who should lead Auckland? By a surprising margin, residents seem to favour the lesser-known of the two declared candidates for the Super City mayoralty.

Today's Herald-DigiPoll survey, the first independent poll of voting intentions, has Manukau Mayor Len Brown 11 points clear of Auckland City's John Banks.

Mr Banks is the rockstar of the two. A veteran MP, Cabinet minister, talkback host, television talking head and two-time holder of the mayoral chains, he has the added advantage of the words Auckland and mayor before his name.

He is a de facto spokesman and father figure for this city of cities. Mr Brown is completing his first term in the south and, while an enthusiast for his communities, could hardly claim to have a high personal profile.

He is, however, a dogged foot soldier for votes, having almost toppled the permanent fixture that was Sir Barry Curtis in the poll before last for the Manukau mayoralty and becoming something of a canvassing Iron Man.

It could be that today's survey reflects a view from across six of the seven territorial-council areas that a vote for Mr Banks represents a central Auckland takeover of their cities. An anyone-but-Auckland-City mentality would make a tough campaign for the Banks team.

He may be copping the backlash over the Government's poor handling of the Super City reform, which is unfair as he has voiced concerns over several aspects of that process.

Certainly the poll shows Aucklanders are unconvinced of the benefits of uniting the seven cities and districts and the Auckland Regional Council into one. Almost half think the Super City will not be a better place to live, with just 33 per cent seeing it as positive.

More than half, 52 per cent, think the super council will be worse for them personally than the status quo; 31 per cent think it will be better.

And 49.5 per cent say the change will not improve the management of the city, as against 42 per cent who think it will.

Incumbency carries its own dangers and the political sins of the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, and the Auckland Transition Agency seem to be being visited upon Mr Banks.

He has been a better mayor in his second term than his first.

He claimed upon re-election to have "transmogrified", with time to reflect while out of office, and has adopted a less extravagant and belligerent brand of politics.

Like Mr Brown, he is a dignified, respectful representative of the city on the national stage and in the smallest corners of communities.

What is missing so far in election year is any sense of his vision for the united city.

Will Auckland be a blend of the best of the eight administrations or something altogether different?

How much power should the council allow the local boards, which so far have ambiguous purposes, and how much control will the city seek over the unelected boards of council-controlled organisations (CCOs)? The clock is ticking for the famed Banksy "action-backed leadership".

Mr Brown is touting himself as the mayor for ALL Auckland, acute to the region's sensitivities over an isthmus-and-CBD Auckland taking over the Super City.

His is a centre-left positioning, opposed to public asset sales, critical of the scale of assets CCOs will hold, favouring better public transport and pushing for local community empowerment.

There are five months until the vote. Opinion polls are snapshots of people's feelings at a moment in time.

They are hot for Mr Brown, but he will know that big leads can lead to complacency and, as the North Shore's George Wood found last time, heartbreak. Expect to see Mr Banks in all four corners of the region, the National-Act Government well out of frame.