The Automobile Association is calling for "common sense" by parking officers after an audit found unacceptably short car parks in New Plymouth.

The motoring watchdog also wants a nationwide end to clamping, which it says has no place in New Zealand.

New Plymouth resident Tom Cloke was forced to take out his measuring tape and start comparing city car-park lengths after he was ticketed for failing to fit his Mazda 6 wagon into a space.

"I found a 1.3m difference between parks, and around the entire town I found only one block of four that had the same length," he told the Herald today. "I even found a council ute that didn't fit into the car park outside the council building. I wonder if they got a ticket?"


He said six out of 876 carparks were too short.

After Cloke wrote in to challenge his fine, it was revoked, but he remained disappointed because the council refused to change the varying-sized parks, he said.

"Yes, there has to be some flexibility but surely not over a metre in difference. This is all about fairness and there has to be a reasonable expectation to be able to park a vehicle. In Wellington and Christchurch, 5-5.5m long, in Auckland I think it's 6m."

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale said the New Plymouth car parking issue was not an isolated incident.

"This sort of thing has happened before, and it may be happening all over.

"We had a similar complaint in Wellington for a car parked over yellow lines protecting a driveway which led to an empty lot - a driveway to nowhere."

A communication breakdown may be one of the factors behind the tickets for varying -ized parks, he said.

"The left hand of the council needs to talk to the right hand. The road markers need to make sure car-park sizes meet the minimum and parking wardens need to be exercising common sense.

"When they see a small space they should be saying, 'Wait a minute, I'm not going to give out a ticket. I'm going to talk to my supervisor about the size of the car park'."

As for clamping AA is calling for a nationwide ban, and said it had no place in New Zealand.

"Council isn't allowed to clamp. Police aren't allowed to clamp. It's just the private sector and the penalty is out of proportion to the offending," Stockdale said.

Businesses including Secure Parking, Wilson Parking, New Zealand Car Park Monitoring Services and Tournament group have developed a voluntary code of practise that states that clamping and towing should only ever be last resorts, used on "repeat offenders", and instead recommends good clear signage and enforcement through breach notices, which are like council tickets.

"People don't get as aggravated over these. They're usually about $65 compared to the instant $200 to release a clamp," Stockdale said.

"These breach notices also allow for natural justice because the driver can leave, can then later choose to challenge the notice if they believe it isn't valid, or even choose not to pay it -- it's a lot fairer."

In the United Kingdom, clamping has effectively been banned, other than some rare use by police or councils.

"This was a result of the media and the public complaining, forcing the hands of the government.

"The New Zealand public has to complain to MPs and contact the media. The more complaints the more likely there is to be a ban. We need the public to complain."