11 Feb 2016

Taxis want to put brakes on Uber's Christchurch plans

7:28 am on 11 February 2016

The taxi industry has hit back at Uber's plan to launch in Christchurch with a different set of safety checks from taxis.

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Photo: AFP

Under the three-month trial, Uber drivers would be screened by the Ministry of Justice, instead of the Transport Agency, which takes longer and is more expensive. In a submission to the government, Uber said the system could be extended to taxi drivers.

But the Taxi Federation said it was inconceivable to think the Government would let the private-driver service launch under different rules.

Chief executive Roger Heale said the existing screening process and safety checks for drivers were sound.

"Let's be clear. Uber are asking for a trial where existing safety checks and balances, that have been introduced over time for very sound reasons, be removed so part-time drivers can set up shop without regard to many of the legal requirements that currently exist."

The smartphone-based driving service is well established in Auckland and Wellington and has had its eye on Christchurch since the middle of last year, with 6000 people there indicating they wanted to be drivers.

But Uber public policy director Brad Kitschke said the current screening process was putting most would-be drivers off.

"They want to drive for a couple of hours a day or a couple of hours a week," he said.

"But what they're not going to do is pay $1500 and wait 12 weeks for a licence, just to be able to drive for a couple of hours a day or a week."

Currently people had to get a special licence, namely a 'P' endorsement, to drive an Uber or a taxi.

Uber was proposing to get rid of that and just vet people instead.

Mr Kitschke said drivers would still undergo a government check, which would carry the same safety outcome.

"It just takes six days rather than sometimes taking weeks and weeks."

The government was currently reviewing the rules for private passenger services, and the proposal was part of Uber's submission.

It was put to Transport Minister Simon Bridges late last year.

He was not available for comment.

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