The rise in people using unlicensed taxis through social media is not just a concern for the taxi industry but also for the safety of the public, Dunedin Taxis director Murray Alcock says. Photo by Star photographer.
Some city revellers are turning to social media for their
paid ride home instead of lining up at a taxi stand. The Star
looks at a growing practice that, in some instances, may be
Dunedin police and taxi drivers are warning against the
gradually increasing practice of people offering to drive
others around the city for money.
Taxi drivers say social media
posts and even brazen kerbside cold-calling are at odds with
regulation and could put people's safety at risk.
City police have also warned that anyone who charges to carry
passengers - and does not hold a commercial vehicle licence -
is breaking the law.
Taxi drivers told The Star unmarked private motor vehicles
were being used to collect fare-paying customers from taxi
stands and outside events.
Some complained of ''suspect'' vehicles making multiple trips
to collect spectators from the Bledisloe Cup test match at
Forsyth Barr Stadium this month.
A driver said a passenger turned away an unmarked car at a
taxi stand after she was asked whether she had ordered a ride
There is at least one Dunedin-focused Facebook page where
users post offers of rides. The sober driver site has drivers
offering their vehicles, and others asking to be driven, for
money or petrol as payment.
But it appears fee-seekers risk breaking the law.
It is illegal to operate an unlicensed transport service and,
if convicted, people who do this can be fined up to $10,000
and have their vehicle impounded for 90 days.
The Facebook sober driver group has more than 1700 members.
New Zealand Taxi Federation Otago spokesman Murray Alcock
noted it was illegal to receive payment for carrying
passengers unless the driver and the vehicle had a passenger
He was concerned people were operating as taxi drivers
without observing the regulations.
It was an issue not just for the taxi industry but also for
the public in terms of safety.
There had always been one or two people who thought it was a
good idea to drive people around and get a little bit of
money on the side but social media added another dimension,
It could be very hard late at night to tell the difference
between registered taxis and other vehicles, especially when
they used the taxi stands.
Mr Alcock planned to ask the New Zealand Transport Agency and
the police what could be done.
Head of the Dunedin Police commercial vehicle investigation
unit Sergeant Andrew Savage said anyone who was providing a
passenger service for payment without a commercial vehicle
license was breaking the law.
''Essentially if they are providing a passenger service and
are taking payment for it then they are no different from a
There was no legal problem if people wanted to offer to pick
up passengers for free, he said.
NZTA regional manager of transport officers Dermot Harris
said the agency was aware of concerns relating to sober
driver services being offered on Facebook and would discuss
the issue with the taxi industry, police and others.
The agency was concerned with the potential safety issues.