Ceasefire between Uber and the Government on the cards over costly vetting process
Uber and the Government could be on the brink of a truce following a promise from Transport Minister Simon Bridges to make the vetting process for commercial drivers cheaper and faster.
Just a week ago Bridges warned Uber drivers could be taken off the road completely if they didn't start following the law - since April the company's drivers have failed to go through the required vetting process.
Bridges accused the $60 million business of "mocking" New Zealand's safety compliance rules, saying the Government had "zero tolerance for illegal behaviour".
But on Tuesday Bridges extended an olive branch to Uber saying he was "going to make sure it's much cheaper and takes much less time" to get a P endorsement passenger carrying licence.
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While Uber is doing its own Ministry of Justice and driver licence checks before deciding if someone can drive - these checks don't cover criminal convictions beyond seven years, a medical fitness to drive or overseas criminal convictions.
Responding to Bridges' comments, an Uber spokesman said, they want to work with the Government to ensure Kiwis have access to a "quick and affordable accreditation process that puts consumer safety first".
"It is encouraging that Minister Bridges has committed to reducing the cost and complexity of obtaining a Government P-Endorsement."
The cost of a P endorsement, which Bridges says is less than $2000, is prohibitive and he'd like to see it brought down to around a third of the cost.
Plans are in place to speed up the process for undertaking the vetting process and Bridges expects both those issues to be cleared up once a Bill is introduced to the House.
"Once we've done that, whether you're a taxi, Uber or some other ride-share operation, there will literally be nothing to complain about. It will be a low compliance level playing field for everyone."
While Bridges says the P endorsement isn't a "safety panacea" - it is an "important safety assurance that the vast majority of New Zealanders expect from a commercial service".
To date 30 infringement notices have been issued and 79 official warnings served to at least 1700 Uber drivers on the road.
Bridges said the notices and warnings were a "small number" and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) was "working to ramp up that enforcement and prosecution".
Both pro and anti-Uber groups were right, he said, and the Government wants Uber in New Zealand, providing they comply with the law.
"I think we can get that balance right."
"New Zealanders for the most part want to know when they get into the car that the Government, if you like, has checked that that person is safe and I don't just mean criminal convictions here," Bridges said.