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Whip giving ute the boot

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had a spin in Kieran McAnulty’s ute. PHOTOS/FILE

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According to its owner, it’s probably the most famous utility vehicle in New Zealand.

But Wairarapa MP and chief government whip Kieran McAnulty says the time has come for him to sell his distinctive red ute to create space in his garage for a new hybrid vehicle.

McAnulty listed his 1997 Mazda B2500 on Trade Me, with proceeds going to charity.

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty is selling his famous red ute.

He has upgraded to a Mitsubishi Outlander, making use of a government scheme providing rebates for newly registered electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

“It’s a bittersweet day,” McAnulty said.

His ute had become an icon within the Wairarapa electorate and was launched into the national gaze during debate over the so-called “ute tax”.

Although Labour had signalled its intention to invest in electric vehicles, McAnulty said he was under no pressure from the party to replace the ute.

“I can honestly say I wasn’t getting any pressure at all. People love it. It still strikes me how it seems to have captured people’s attention and imagination.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had been a passenger in McAnulty’s ute on two occasions when visiting Wairarapa.

“She was a fan of the ute – there’s no doubt about that – but I’m sure she would also be supportive of the decision I’ve made.”

When McAnulty first bought the ute 15 years ago, he had used it primarily as a work vehicle for fencing and firewood jobs.

Although he had a nostalgic connection to the vehicle, he said he was proud to switch to a hybrid that would cut his carbon emissions by 90 per cent.

McAnulty could drive the car as a fully electric vehicle around town and switch to hybrid mode to travel to the outer reaches of his electorate in South Wairarapa or Central Hawke’s Bay.

He announced the auction on his Facebook page on Tuesday morning, saying that the ute had served him well and would “keep going and going, as long as you’re not in a rush.”

The ute had clocked up 437,000km. Although McAnulty had serviced it every 5000km, the buyer would need to be aware of several “quirks,” including an inaccurate speedometer and a radio that sometimes popped out.

“I always said that I would hold on to it as long as I could,” McAnulty said. “I see that there is a clear benefit to not replacing vehicles unless you need to.”

However, the ute had gradually slowed down to the point that it could only reach 80kmh. McAnulty said locals would appreciate him no longer slowing them down when driving across the

Remutaka Hill Rd.

Meanwhile, McAnulty would appreciate the modern touches of his new vehicle, including a functioning air conditioning system.

“I’ve never had air-conditioning before. I used to drive around in the summer with a couple of spare ironed shirts hanging up in the back seat. When I got where I was going, I would change my shirt because it was like an oven.”

His ute had a heating system, but this only ran on one setting.

“It used to work on setting three and four; now it only works on three.”

Proceeds from the auction would go to Rural Support Trusts in Wairarapa, Tararua, and Central Hawke’s Bay.

“They are a really important organisation for our region and every region across the country. Whenever there is any stress in a rural environment, it is the Rural Support Trust that provides that support,” McAnulty said.

The auction would run until 7pm on October 3. By the time of publication, the highest bid was $2200.

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