Uber drivers closer to being lawful as Government looks to fast-track legislation
Catching a ride with an Uber driver is on the brink of being lawful after Transport Minister Simon Bridges agreed to look at fast-tracking some legislation.
The Government is in the middle of a two-year long review of the Land Transport Amendment Bill but Uber bosses fed up with the delays have called on Bridges to make immediate changes to regulations affecting them.
Currently many Uber drivers are unlawfully behind the wheel because they don't hold a Passenger (P) endorsement and the innovative ride-sharing company is pushing for rules around the endorsements to be loosened.
Uber have been in the firing line for many months as they continue to flout the laws around P endorsements - a vetting process that checks things like criminal and medical records.
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The verdict of an independent report commissioned by Uber was that Bridges has the power to relax the rules at any time and the Minister agrees it's worth looking at splitting parts of the bill up.
"Their biggest point is around those P endorsement courses - I agree they should go. They've served their purpose fundamentally and a lot of the compliance that is in there...is just not required.
"But to do that I'm legally obliged to consult and to go through a fair amount of process. As I say I'm not going to muck around on that and if we get through that substantially quicker than we do the law process here in Parliament, it's possible we'll split the courses of them," Bridges said.
The drawn out process comes down to having to widely consult on the law changes after Cabinet told Bridges to go further than the initial "informal consultation".
"I am open to it and the reason the wheels of this have moved slower than Uber's wanted and, truthfully, I've wanted as well, has been because it's a very significant change and Cabinet was anxious that we had good consultation around this.
"Cabinet believed given the scale of the changes it was important we went out and formally consulted as well and the truth is that cost us some time," he said.
"In terms of the rule changes we're not going to unnecessarily delay them."
Uber's New Zealand general manager Richard Menzies, said after two years of "consultation, independent advice confirms that reforms can be implemented without further delay to make the P-endorsement accessible to everyday Kiwis who want to share rides."
"We look forward to working with the Ministry of Transport and NZTA to put partners through an accessible revamped endorsement before the end of the year."
Bridges has previously threatened to take Uber off the road if they don't start complying - a move supported by taxi companies frustrated the new player was not following the rules.