Taxi drivers put young women at risk by refusing 'short' $15 fare home from central Wellington nightlife

Young women enjoying the night life in Courtenay Place, Wellington. (FILE)
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Young women enjoying the night life in Courtenay Place, Wellington. (FILE)

A pair of young women say multiple taxi drivers refused them a safe ride home from a night out in central Wellington because the fare would only be about $15.

Ohaora Smith and Hope Broderick, both 19, finally got a cab from a rank along Courtenay Place after about six drivers refused them the 1.7km ride to Nairn St in Mt Cook at about 2.30am on Sunday.

Smith said some of the drivers from various companies told them it was because the fare – about $15 – would be too small, which is an illegal refusal, punishable by an instant fine of $200 or $1000 if convicted in court.

"Even the ones who didn't say it, I know that was why," Smith said.

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"They weren't going to have a bar of it.

"[But] walking home from the city can be a bit sketchy."

The pair had had a few drinks out with friends but were not overly drunk or rude, she said.

They were worried for their safety – one of the latest attacks on women was by a man in a balaclava late at night in the central city last month.

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Broderick said the pair turned to regular cabs after initially trying to get an Uber. 

Uber drivers do not see a rider's destination until the trip has started, but the Uber driver cancelled the pick-up for some reason.

The girls said they approached the taxis politely, checking they were not already booked before trying to get a safe way home.

"It's not good for two girls to be out walking around."

They complained to Wellington Combined Taxis (WCT).

Customer services advisor Lynette Terrill said refusal of a short fare was not acceptable, and all small passenger licence holders were aware of this.

"As you can imagine Courtenay Place is one of the main pick up areas for all companies. Searching the approximate time given, I was able to see a minimum 27 taxis in this area."

Without being able to confirm the cab numbers, the drivers could not be dealt with accordingly under the WCT Rules and Disciplinary Procedures.

New Zealand Taxi Federation spokesman John Hart said: "any respectable taxi company deals with these cases very severely if they have the information to be able to identify the driver."

"Changes to the Land Transport Amendment Bill now before Parliament take away the requirement that taxi drivers know the basics of the law affecting their industry and this is certainly one of the basics."

An NZTA spokeswoman said the agency got six complaints about this issue in Wellington last year, compared with one in Auckland.

Drivers could refuse to carry a person for various reasons such as: if the customer was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, was consuming food or drink, or if the driver wanted prepayment of the fare and the hirer refused.

A police spokeswoman said general safety advice for anyone going out at night was to leave home with a fully charged phone, stick with friends and have a plan in place for how to get home.

"Stick to well-lit areas if you are walking anywhere [and] tell someone where you are going and avoid alleyways or shortcuts."

 - Stuff

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