Elderly, disabled lose taxi subsidy

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2014

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Dozens of elderly and disabled people have been left thumbing a ride after the regional council severed its ties with Hawera's only taxi company.

Earlier this year, Taranaki Regional Council suspended the district's Total Mobility subsidy scheme because the provider was not meeting its obligations.

But with no other company able to provide the service, about 200 residents have been left to pay full price.

The scheme caters for people with health or medical conditions, who find it difficult to use public transport, by providing them with vouchers to help pay for taxis.

South Taranaki Grey Power president Alison Howie said with no interim solution, many had been robbed of their independence because they couldn't afford the extra expense.

She said asking for help didn't always come easy and relying on friends and family wasn't an option for everyone. "These people are isolated in their homes," she said.

"For two of the ladies I take shopping, it's just about their only outing for the week.

"Their basic rights are being denied by not being able to get out."

CCS Disability Action acting regional manager Richard Ousey said any additional cost would almost certainly affect people's ability to go out.

TRC corporate services director Mike Nield said it deeply regretted the loss of the service but felt there was no choice but to terminate the contract with Hawera Taxis.

"Hawera Taxis have not met the obligations they were required to do," he said.

"We can't afford to have people not meeting their contractual obligations when we are dealing with public money." He said the council acknowledged the process had been inconvenient and frustrating, and was investigating alternative transport options.

"It is an unfortunate situation which will affect about 200 Total Mobility users in South Taranaki who rely on the scheme," he said.

"We didn't want to leave these customers in the lurch, but we have limited opportunity to resolve the situation."

Hawera Taxis co-owner Roger Corston said he was mystified by the move and was awaiting an explanation.

"I'm puzzled as to what those obligations might be," he said.

However, Nield said the council had kept Corston "fully informed of the contractual obligations that he has not fulfilled".

He declined to say what those obligations were.

The Total Mobility subsidised fares are still available in Stratford, New Plymouth and North Taranaki.

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