As John Banks sets out to relaunch a career in national politics, he has been honoured for his two terms as mayor of the old Auckland City Council.

The 64-year-old is proving something of a comeback kid - returning to the mayoralty in 2007 after a term in the wilderness, and standing for Act in Epsom at this year's general elections after being the National MP for Whangarei from 1981 to 1999.

In 2000, Mr Banks was made a companion of the Queen's Service Order for public service. In today's Queen's Birthday Honours, he is appointed a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit.

"The Auckland mayoralty was singularly the best job I ever had and the greatest honour anyone can ever be given who lives in this city," he said.

But Banksie - as he called himself while a talkback radio host for many years - freely acknowledges his two mayoralty terms were very different.

The bulldozing politics of his first term were a mistake, he said, and he had three years to reflect on his style and unfinished business.

Mr Banks, whose first term was marked by asset sales and the ill-fated eastern highway, said saving Westhaven Marina from foreign ownership was the single biggest achievement of that tumultuous period.

As for his second term, he is most proud of the focus he put on arts and culture - progressing the $121 million upgrade of the Auckland Art Gallery and driving the project to turn the Pah Homestead in Hillsborough into a home for the James Wallace art collection.

James Wallace has been knighted for services to the arts in today's honours list.

Mr Banks said his mayoralty had always been a team effort, and he singled out his deputy during both terms, David Hay, and councillors for their contributions.

He said if he got back into Parliament in the November election, he would continue to be a flagbearer for Auckland issues, particularly the inner-city rail loop which, he said, would be built.

"The problem is the very real challenge around the global recession, but the designation of the route and work to bring it to fruition need to continue."