Taxi boss vows to fight proposed changes
The head of the Taxi Federation has slammed the Government's proposed "dumbing down" of taxi regulations.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced yesterday plans to simplify the rules, bringing the traditional taxi industry and web-based upstarts like Uber under the same umbrella.
Uber drivers are not currently subject to the same level of scrutiny and standards as taxi drivers. The changes mean both Uber and taxi drivers, as well as private hire drivers and shuttles, will now be considered a small passenger service.
"We've got rid of the silos and the red tape between different classes," Mr Bridges told the Paul Henry programme this morning.
"Think about what that's done in terms of competition in airlines and electricity. Yes, it can mean lower prices -- and they should be competing on lower prices, and we've seen that with Uber's latest moves -- but I think it also means better offerings."
Uber yesterday dropped its prices by 20 percent, and slashed its registration process from $1500 and 12 weeks to $20 and six days.
Don't expect the taxi industry to follow suit however. Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish says Kiwis "aren't stupid" and will keep using taxis because they are reliable, safe and have "professional standards".
"We believe our fares enable business sustainability. They enable people to make a living."
Under the new rules, all drivers will need to display identification, undergo a police check and have a passenger (P) endorsement. But they won't have to re-sit their driver's licence test every five years or require specialist knowledge of the area they're working in.
"One of the key elements that people get taxis for is they get drivers that know where they're going," says Mr Reddish. "To argue that GPS technology does away with that need is an absolute nonsense. To dumb it down like this is a retrograde step."
He called Uber's price drop a "publicity stunt to recruit illegal drivers", and vowed to fight the "shallow" and "poorly researched" changes.
Also appearing on the Paul Henry programme, Labour deputy leader Annette King insisted it wouldn't be a level playing field because Uber cars wouldn't be required to have cameras.
"Other taxis have to have cameras so you know if there's a problem."
According to a Q&A released by the Government yesterday, all transport providers operating in a "main urban area" will need an in-vehicle recording camera, or an exemption.
Mr Bridges insists cameras won't be needed in Uber cars because "the consumer knows who the driver is, the driver knows who the consumer is, they can map the trip".
The changes are yet to go through select committee, and are unlikely to become law before 2017.