Police Commissioner Mike Bush has admitted the holiday road safety campaign was confusing and did not have the full support of the public.
Police have faced criticism in recent days, with claims their message to the public regarding the speed limit was inconsistent.
Earlier this week, Police Minister Michael Woodhouse asked for a review of the campaign.
Today, police released figures showing police officers issued just 14 tickets for being up to four kilometres over the limit during the holiday period.
Mr Bush said it was never intended as a zero tolerance campaign but he said he could understand how it was interpreted that way.
"It's not ideal to split hairs but there's a big difference between 'would' and 'could' and the messaging was that they could be stopped not that they would be stopped and would be ticketed," he said.
"So there is a difference. But we can understand how that messaging was interpreted as zero tolerance."
Mr Bush said the number of tickets issued for being up to four kilometres over the limit was just one more than the previous holiday period, and that showed officers used their discretion.
AA general manager of motoring Mike Noon also said the message was confusing.
"That did cause some anguish from drivers and motorists that they might be ticketed say for doing one kilometre per hour over on the motorway," he said.
"It appears by the numbers of tickets issued that the officers have used their discretion and we would say correctly used their discretion."
New Zealand First said police needed to release details of all the speeding tickets issued over the holiday period, rather than slipping out little bits of information.
The party's police spokesperson, Ron Mark, said they requested specific information about the number and location of speeding tickets issued over the holiday period a week ago.
"We're still yet to receive their answers around speeding infringement notices that were issued - not just those that were issued as tickets by officers but also the speed camera tickets," he said.
"We specially asked for details of what roads and when. Were they black spots or were they Tinakori Road?"
Mr Mark said motorists were scared by police saying they would be enforcing the 100 kilometres an hour limit on the open road with zero tolerance over the Christmas period.
"Police spent their time driving on holiday looking at the speedometer, not looking at the road, and braking whenever they saw a police officer for fear of being one kilometre over the limit.
"The problems that emanated from that police belong to the police and the police commissioner alone."
No refunds expected
Mr Bush said police should have been more explicit that speed cameras were set for the usual holiday tolerance of four kilometres above the speed limit.
He also said roadside officers used their discretion when stopping speeding drivers - and their focus was on unsafe drivers.
Mr Bush said future road policing campaigns would have clearer messages.
Police have said they have no intention of refunding any of the 14 tickets.