New taxi rules 'put people at risk'

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The Land Transport Amendment Bill will bring taxis, shuttles, private hire vehicles, and dial-a-driver services into one category. Photo/File

By Matthew Theunissen

The government's proposed overhaul of the taxi consent process will put passengers and drivers at risk, says the country's largest taxi company.

The Land Transport Amendment Bill, which has passed through the Select Committee stage, will bring taxis, shuttles, private hire vehicles, and dial-a-driver services into a single category.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges argues the revised system will deliver benefits through increased competition and provide more flexibility to accommodate new technologies.

The changes do away with the area knowledge and English language requirements, which Bridges said were redundant thanks to GPS technology.

They also remove the requirement for taxis to have in-vehicle recording cameras, introduced in 2011 after two cabbies were murdered in little more than a year.

Bridges told TVNZ this was because new technology identified the driver and the passenger before anyone got into the vehicle.

"The reason being very clear because they have got other ways of making passengers safe such as the app that tracks who the driver is," he said.

But Blue Bubble Taxis chief executive Bob Wilkinson said this was not true.

"All it shows is that the two phones know each other but who's holding those phones is out of our control. We have seen drivers who are registered with a company ... not being who actually turns up.

"You've also got instances where, for example, parents have given their accounts for their children to use," Wilkinson said. "We don't believe, from our experience, that's good enough to protect either the passenger or the driver."

As far as the removal of the local knowledge tests, Wilkinson said there was no substitute for knowing your beat.

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"I'm based in Christchurch and GPS in Christchurch isn't always up-to-date as to where the cones are sitting so it could lead you up a blind alley whereas local knowledge will always trump GPS every time."

Likewise, removing the English language requirements would cause major problems.

"It will make it really difficult to get an address off somebody and process a GPS unit if you don't speak the same language. Almost impossible," Wilkinson said.

"If you get a driver who's second language is English and repeat some of the New Zealand street names to him and ask him to type that into his GPS, you're going to have an argument in the car, aren't you?"

Another major concern was the removal of the training requirements for fatigue management and keeping proper log books.

"It means you'll have a large group of professional drivers who are no longer trained or tested on their knowledge of how to fill out a log book or how to recognise or manage fatigue.

"They're the only group of professional drivers in New Zealand who won't have done that."

Wilkinson said the changes were being made to accommodate Uber, something Bridges denied.

Bridges told TVNZ he was confident Uber would comply

"If they don't, I think they'll really be taking the mickey of New Zealand's law."

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