Auckland Council chiefs are keeping under wraps a massive diesel truck bought second-hand for environmental education and other purposes, including civil defence.
They are anxious to rebrand the 17-metre "Green Rig" articulated truck and trailer unit - developed by the Palmerston North-based Horizons Regional Council for $1.2 million - before showing it around the Super City from about the end of next month.
Although they paid just under $185,000 for the rig and its array of interactive educational equipment, one senior council source has questioned their purchase of "a type of vehicle most people would consider the antithesis of sustainable transport".
He claimed there was no political approval before officers of the council's infrastructure and environmental services department bought the rig in December.
The decision by Horizons to sell the rig, five years after it was custom-built in Palmerston North off a Mitsubishi tractor unit, followed political controversy and acknowledgment by the regional council that some rural ratepayers believed it was "too green and unbalanced in its portrayal of the farming sector".
But the chair of Auckland Council's environmental and sustainability forum, Councillor Wayne Walker, said yesterday it was not green enough for his comfort.
"From a sustainability perspective I certainly wouldn't be branding it as a green rig because, you know, it ain't green," he told the Herald.
Even so, he defended the purchase, saying it had plenty of potential for conversion to biofuel and noting that some of its power was already provided by roof-top solar panels.
He said officers had to act fast over the Christmas period to bid for it at "a very good price". Asked if it was a good look using a big diesel rig to try to encourage Aucklanders towards environmental sustainability, he said: "No, it isn't but unfortunately, whether we like it or not, we've got buses and all sorts of stuff that run on diesel, and we have to green that stuff - we have to convert it - and I'll be actively pushing that.
"I'm certainly opposed to calling it the green rig, and it needs to emphasise what it's going to be used for, and that's really education and engagement with a whole raft of council activities," he said.
Despite Mr Walker's belief that the rig was bought at a bargain-basement price, Horizons council member Bob Walker wrote in the Wanganui Chronicle last month that it was "more than most believed we would get for it".
Auckland Council spokeswoman Angela Jones said the vehicle had a "fairly light load by trucking standards", with a gross trailer weight of 15 tonnes and it had travelled only about 50,000km.
Truck: 2006 Mitsubishi Fuso Shogun - six tonnes, six-cylinder diesel intercooled turbo engine compliant with Euro 3 emission standards.
Trailer: 13.9m long, gross weight 15 tonnes. Fibreglass shell over steel frame with aluminium roof and plywood floor.
Features: eight roof-mounted photovoltaic panels generating 1 kilowatt of electricity (equivalent to power use of one-bar heater)