Be careful where you pay for parking on Auckland's waterfront - putting your money in the wrong machine could land you with a hefty fee.

The viaduct hosts a mix of public and private parking options which are sometimes side by side.

Muddled motorists paying at a nearby council pay machine while parking in a private car park could get stung with a parking ticket.

That's what happened to Russell Phillips, who was lumped with a $65 fee last Thursday when he left his car at the viaduct's fish market in the CBD.

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While the Herald was at the car park with Phillips this morning, he directed three other people away from the council machine after confusing it for the car park's.

Last week Phillips paid for several hours' parking and despite returning well before his limit was up, a ticket had been tucked under his windscreen wiper.

Phillips had accidentally paid for his parking at a nearby Auckland Transport (AT) machine - not the machine owned by the private company managing the car park he was parked in, Parking Enforcement Services.

Phillips said this was much closer than the machines operated by Parking Enforcement Services, which were on the far side of the parking lot.

The distinction between the two wasn't made clear enough, he said.

NZ Herald graphic
NZ Herald graphic

"The nearest pay station ... was marked with dark blue writing on it and so were the signs in the Auckland fish market, so it seemed to be the correct place to pay."

It was more about the principle than the money, Phillips said.

"If this had been a little old lady in her 80s on a pension it'd be pretty unfair."

Parking Enforcement Services is a division of Wilson Parking, whose spokeswoman said they would waive Phillips' fee after being approached by the Herald.

"Sometimes people pay at the wrong machines and yes we are lenient.

"We will work with the owners of this site to improve signage requirements and will, on this occasion, waive this notice."

AA spokesman Mark Stockdale said he was aware of incidents like this happening from time to time and agreed more could be done to make the correct point of payment clearer.

"Sometimes it's not obvious to tell the difference. People see one parking machine and think it belongs to the other car park. There needs to be greater differentiation between them."

Fencing and clear signage on the road, on a notice when entering the car park and on the machines themselves were all options for clearing up confusion, he said.

"All that stuff helps because there is confusion."

AT media spokesman Mark Hannan disagreed.

"I can't see why anyone would be confused, there's quite a lot of signage in that private car park," Hannan said.

As well, the signage at the car park was not in the style Auckland Transport used.

"The responsibility falls back on the person," he said.

"It's quite clear it's not Auckland Transport parking."