The reason a Wellington parking ticket has gone 30 years without being paid could be due to a number of reasons, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The $40 ticket for parking in a loading zone was issued in 1987, and is the oldest ticket Wellington City Council is still waiting for payment on.

When parking tickets are unpaid in Wellington, the council refers the ticket to the Ministry of Justice after 150 days for collection, said parking services manager Michelle Riwai.

"Once it's been lodged with the Ministry of Justice, we would have very little control over that," she said.

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The ministry's collections manager, Louisa Carroll, said a fine could go unpaid for a long time if they had out-of-date contact details for the person.

"There may be a number of reasons why an outstanding amount may take longer or is unable to be collected," she said.

"Generally this is because we are supplied with out-of-date contact details for a person and we can't get hold of them, or they may have gone overseas. It may also be that the person is paying but that reparation or other fines take precedence."

When a fine is lodged with the court the ministry will first seek payment in full, and then negotiate sustainable repayment instalments where possible.

The ministry is required to give the person 28 days in which to respond before taking any enforcement action. If someone does not respond within that period, the ministry will slap on an extra $102 fee.

Consequences for non-payment can include clamping vehicles, seizing and selling property, making compulsory deductions from a person's income or bank account, issuing warrants to arrest, suspending drivers' licences, and preventing international travel.

Carroll said remittal of the fine was sometimes considered the most appropriate action if the person had died or a company was in liquidation, or when an alternative sentence is ordered by a judge.

"In recent years the Courts have gained more power to claw back hard-to-reach fines, such as driver licence suspension. These new powers enhanced access to other government records through information sharing to track down a person's contact details."

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All outstanding fines are periodically reviewed seeking updated contact details to assist with collection. If an offender cannot be located a warrant to arrest can be issued to the police.

"We provide regular updates to all agencies that lodge infringement notices with the court for enforcement, outlining the status of their fines, the amount collected and the amount outstanding," Carroll said.