Transport Minister Simon Bridges believes his proposals to regulate the taxi industry will be world leading.

The Land Transport Amendment Bill aims to bring Uber in from the cold and make it part of the mainstream taxi industry.

But in the process, it will require some concessions from Uber.

Bridges says the Bill will allow for a more competitive small passenger services sector than we have ever seen before.

 “We’ve tried to be scrupulously fair in this process and cerate the best regime for the sector and not for any particular interest,” he told POLITIK.

Uber drivers may not see it that way.

Under the Bill drivers of “small passenger services,” vehicles drivers will continue to be required to hold a “P” licence endorsement and to display a driver identification card.

A fit and proper person check, including a Police check, will need to be undertaken before a P endorsement is granted.

In April the smartphone-based driver service dropped its requirements for drivers to have a passenger (P) endorsement for their licence.

The company then did its own Ministry of Justice and driver licence checks before deciding if someone could drive – these tests weren’t  enough to make them legal.

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Under the company’s checks, there is no evidence of specified criminal convictions beyond seven years, traffic offending beyond seven years, medical fitness to drive, charges laid by police, history of behavioural problems and complaints to police, persistent failure to pay fines, past transport service related complaints or overseas criminal convictions.

Since April NZTA has issued 14 infringement notices and served 66 official warnings to at least 1700 Uber drivers on the road.

Other requirements for all taxis will be:

  • drivers must continue to operate within their work time limits:
  • vehicles will continue to require a certificate of fitness:
  • vehicles operating within the 18 main urban areas will require an in-vehicle recording camera, unless an exception or exemption applies.

But in return the industry gets some major concessions.

Taxis will no longer need to have signs with information about fares or even their brand.

Drivers will no longer need

  • an area knowledge certificate:
  • to pass a full licence test every five years:
  • have completed the passenger endorsement course:

And taxi companies will longer need to services 24 hours per day, seven days a week or monitor driver panic alarms in taxis.  

Bridges gives a hint to the tensions that exist within the industry when he says that new operators (Uber) face un-necessary compliance costs and obsolete requirements which were drafted in the 1980s well before smart phones had been invented.

But he also says: “If you are an established firm, a co-op taxis or the like, you are equally frustrated and perhaps even angry because there are other operators who in your view are not playing by the rules and have an unfair advantage on that basis and are also potentially  operating in a way without any assurance as to safety.”

Bridges says it is going to be a very different regime to what we have had. It will bring all small passenger services including Uber, traditional taxis, dial-a-driver and some other models all onto a level playing field.

“My belief is that now having the Bill out will show everyone in black and white what is going on here so that we can move past the spin of the various parties to the reality of what;’s going to be.”

Of course the Bill is not yet law; it will have to go through the Select Committee process and if the intensity of the debate between the traditional taxi industry and Uber so far is anything to go by; the arguments may not yet be over.