Key Points:

Winston Peters' big, black ministerial four-wheel-drive was meant to get him around the country to do his job better.

But on Friday morning - nearly three months after he was ousted from Parliament - it was proving a rather useful shopping trolley for his partner. Jan Trotman, with whom he lives in Auckland, used the Ford Territory to get to coffee dates and the post shop.

That afternoon (perhaps after the Department of Internal Affairs tired of trying to explain to the media why Peters still had the car), a Ministerial Services chauffeur reclaimed the car from outside the St Marys Bay home.

A department spokesman said Peters' car was the last to be returned by a former minister. But he insisted that reclaiming the car had been a matter of perfectly amicable discussion with the former MP.

The department said there was no set time limit on how long ministers could use their cars and fuel cards after leaving Parliament. Retired and ousted MPs and ministers are also entitled to continue claiming subsidised air travel, on top of their large pension package. An MP who has served as long as Winston Peters gets a 90 per cent discount on much of his air travel for the rest of his life.

But the ministerial self-drive car is intended to enable them to do their job - not as a perk after leaving Parliament. Other former ministers had already returned their cars.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, Peters' old sparring partner, said he had heard Peters was allegedly dragging his feet in returning the car.

"This is exactly the behaviour we'd expect from Winston Peters," he said.

He had never heard of a minister holding on to the car after leaving Parliament: "But then, there's been nothing like Winston Peters, a man whose only interest in politics has been the baubles, never the country."

Trotman would not comment on why it had taken Ministerial Services so long to repossess the car. She dismissed as "untrue" any suggestion that Peters had refused to return it.

And Peters told the Herald on Sunday that he had no time for Hide and his claims.

Ministerial Services spokesman Colin Feslier acknowledged there was no time limit on giving cars back.

"Rt Hon Winston Peters made arrangements for the termination of his use of his ministerial self-drive immediately after the election; it was thought that he would purchase the car at market rates under our standard provisions for this; he decided against this and we have made arrangements for the car to be returned."

Feslier also said there was no dollar limit on fuel card spending, though he did not say whether the department had paid for Peters' petrol since the return of the writs.

- ADDITIONAL REPORTING: Alice Neville