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Taxi industry demands urgent government action

Taxi industry demands urgent government action

The government is being urged to introduce a three-year moratorium on new taxi drivers entering the industry, and to significantly toughen up compliance activities to better control existing operators.

Taxi Federation executive director, Tim Reddish, says the moves are necessary to bring the industry back under control and to curb sharp and sometimes illegal practices that are becoming more common among smaller, less professional taxi firms.

Speaking at the Taxi Federation's annual conference in Hamilton, he said taxi numbers have grown 300% since deregulation in 1989, and the growth shows no signs of plateauing. Legislation governing the industry, and the way that legislation is enforced, has simply not kept pace.

"This is causing mayhem. There are major problems for passengers, responsible taxi operators, city councils and inner city motorists – even for the IRD.

"The situation is totally out of hand. It is impossible for industry to regulate itself effectively and only government action can bring things back under control."

Mr Reddish says a moratorium would allow industry numbers to stabilise to more acceptable levels.

This would reduce the massive 'over competition' within the industry, which is encouraging illegal and unsafe practices. These include tax and GST evasion, potentially unsafe vehicles and huge overcrowding and congestion on inner city taxi ranks - problems that are plaguing councils and inner city motorists.

“It would also give all parties the chance to introduce measures that provide effective and sustainable controls on taxi numbers, and the ongoing professionalism of taxi operators.

“At the moment, virtually anyone can get a taxi license and, once behind the wheel, there are no enforceable controls on drivers’ behaviour. Less responsible operators take full advantage of that.”

Mr Reddish said more effective regulation and rigorous compliance would cut non-compliant taxi numbers by 25 percent.

“Industry is doing its best with limited resources and powers, but we certainly can’t undertake the enforcement roles which really are government’s responsibility.

“Neither the Police nor the LTSA compliance staff have increased in number, despite the exponential growth in taxi numbers in the main centres. The taxi industry has been relegated to a low priority enforcement activity by those agencies.”

The Taxi Federation has made repeated representations to successive Ministers. Its efforts paid off recently when Transport Safety Minister, Harry Duynhoven, asked the Ministry of Transport to host meetings at which taxi industry and city council representatives discussed these issues.

However, the meetings were inconclusive, Mr Reddish said, because of the relatively lenient legislation that exists, and poor compliance activity in the current market.

“These issues are high on the agenda at the Federation conference,” he said.

“We expect almost universal backing from delegates for our call for urgent government action to introduce a moratorium on industry entry and to toughen up compliance initiatives.”

Editors’ note: The Taxi Federation conference is being held in Hamilton at the Novatel Tainui Hotel from September 20-24.

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