Too many taxis: Mayor wants cap

21:56, Jan 30 2011
Taxis
Celia Wade-Brow says "taxi management is a challenge" for Wellington City Council.

There are too many taxis in Wellington and it is time to put a limit on them, the mayor says.

The taxi industry agrees and has called on the Government to introduce legislation to cap or reduce numbers in the city.

Celia Wade-Brown believes part of the problem stems from "overqualified" immigrants being funded by Work and Income into an industry that has hit saturation point.

"There seem to be too many for the city and they aren't getting a good living wage in some cases."

The New Zealand Transport Agency issues taxi licences, but legislation that deregulated the industry in 1989 does not allow the agency to set limits.

There are 1237 taxis licensed for Wellington City. About 400 were on the road before deregulation. This tripling of taxis in the past 20 years has led to overcrowded taxi stands and dubious parking practices as drivers clamour for business, especially in the late-night Courtenay Place party zone.

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Ms Wade-Brown said cabs were an important and vital part of the city's transport network but "taxi management is a challenge" for Wellington City Council.

Work and Income assisting overqualified immigrants into the industry – instead of into jobs that better suited their overseas qualifications – compounded the problem, Ms Wade-Brown said.

"Limiting taxi numbers ... is an area for lobbying NZTA because we [city council] don't issue the licences."

Taxi Federation Wellington branch secretary George Tyler also said Work and Income had contributed to the taxi boom.

"Winz ... financed quite a lot of immigrants into the business. They helped them through the training systems ... which helped to create the oversupply."

Ecotaxi driver Bijai Kumar, 60, from Fiji, said there were too many cabs, and lots of immigrant drivers.

"There are all sort of rumours about how much they are paid by Winz to get into taxis."

Work and Income regional commissioner Louise Waaka said the organisation did not fund people to buy taxis in Wellington.

"[But] assistance may be made available to help the long-term unemployed for a range of passenger licences," she said.

Transport Agency spokesman Andy Knackstedt said the cost of setting up a taxi driver – which includes obtaining a passenger endorsement, transport services licence, area knowledge certificate and checking the applicant is a fit and proper person – would be more than $2000.

The existing legislation did not allow the transport agency to set taxi licence limits.

"[Our] primary focus is on passenger safety, which we target by monitoring driver behaviour and vehicle safety."

Mr Tyler said the only solution he could think of for Wellington's taxi congestion woes would be for the Government to introduce legislation to cap the number of taxis at current levels.

"It would mean they [NZTA] couldn't issue any more licences in Wellington until it could be demonstrated that there is a need for it."

A less palatable option would be to return to full government regulation, which would pre-set cab numbers.

"Then they would have to reintroduce fare fixing. If you are going to limit the supply, then you have to control the costs as well."

Kiwi Cabs general manager Ninos Zaya said there were too many taxis for a "small city like Wellington".

"They need to regulate to make the industry more professional, reduce the number of taxis, and tighten who can get a taxi licence."

The Dominion Post