<' />

Embarrassed officials have apologised to residents of an upmarket Auckland street after a bungled "courtesy tow" ended up with 28 cars disappearing.

A breakdown in communication meant vehicles towed from Paget St in Ponsonby - so roadworks could go ahead - were not returned.

Puzzled residents called the Auckland Council call centre only to be told there was no record of work being done on their street.

They were told their best bet was to call the police and report the cars stolen. They had, in fact, been left in random spare spaces in neighbouring streets.

The confusion arose after Auckland Towing removed the cars ahead of scheduled chipsealing by contractor Blacktop Construction on Thursday.

Council organisation Auckland Transport said it sometimes paid for such "courtesy tows" if residents had not moved their cars.

Spokesman Bob Cook said residents were warned with letters, signs and doorknocks but conceded things could have been done better. And he admitted the cars weren't returned as they should have been. "The standard process is the vehicle is courtesy towed back and that's fallen over in this case."

Neville Waldren, 77, said he knew about the roadworks and had no problem with his Ford Falcon being towed - providing it was returned. "When I went out to get it I couldn't find it. I had no idea where it was. I sent someone out to look for it."

He found it on Friday after enlisting a neighbour's help and had had to use the bus.

Anna Comrie-Thompson said she had talked to neighbours and none could remember receiving warning letters.

Cook said letters were sent a fortnight before the work and the council call centre was told a week before.

Warning signs were placed on the street on Wednesday and officials doorknocked between 7.30am and 8am on Thursday to give residents a final reminder.

Cook said Auckland Towing was asked to move 28 cars and police were told what was happening.

Auckland Towing director Antony Ashford said the towing was ordered by Blacktop Construction which did not ask for the vehicles to be returned. Auckland Council spokesman John Evans agreed there appeared to be a communication breakdown and apologised.