Dear John letters are notorious among lovers, but parking enforcement officers are familiar with a slightly different version of correspondence.

Letters typically begin "Dear a******", members of the New Zealand Parking Association say.

About 70 enforcement officers, mostly from regional and district councils, are in Dunedin for the association's 29th annual conference - a three-day affair at the Southern Cross Hotel.

Camaraderie was vital to those in a "thankless" job, association chairwoman Janice Burns said.


"Nobody's going to say 'thank you very much, you're doing a great job'. You have to be very thick-skinned," she said.

Ms Burns, Hamilton City Council's enforcement manager, said officers were trained not to take abuse personally.

"The number of times I've been told to take a run and jump, or that my mother wasn't married to my father ... it can be a very thankless task," she said.

But most officers loved their job, particularly when given the chance to help people, she said.

"We are like walking encyclopedias, like the walking AA (Automobile Association). We help people find their cars if they can't remember where they parked, we get asked for directions and bus times, help find lost children and elderly people, and we get really good at changing tyres and helping people into cars they've locked themselves out of."

Ms Burns said enforcement officers had heard every excuse in every situation and always had good stories to tell.

"Someone will walk out of the mall with all their shopping bags and say they just dashed in to take little Tommy to the toilet."

She said the "economic downturn" had made enforcement harder, as people short of money typically did not register or warrant vehicles and skimped on parking.

Each annual conference included motivational speakers, which this year were Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt and Auckland comedian Ewen Gilmour.

Yesterday association committee member Heather Miller delivered a presentation on the history of number plates and today there will be a parking enforcement photograph competition before the association's annual general meeting.