Problem taxi rank shift likely

The Octagon taxi rank at the centre of concerns over late-night violence appears set to shift to the centre carriageway at night, with better signs and closed-circuit TV camera coverage.

This follows a meeting last week between deputy mayor Chris Staynes and taxi company managers.

Cr Staynes said the meeting on Wednesday had discussed whether the taxi rank - outside the Municipal Chambers, below Harrop St - was in the right place. The issue had "attracted a bit of debate''.

"What we've now agreed is to do an investigation about the viability of having the evening taxi stand in the centre lane of the Octagon, where the tour buses normally park,'' he said.

There were "some small issues'' to be dealt with before that idea was put into action, including a no-right-turn rule from the central carriageway into the upper Octagon, which would mean taxis would have to travel further south to Moray Pl before heading north.

Staff were going to consider whether that turn could be made available later at night.

Changing the siting of the taxi rank follows revelations in the ODT last month about taxi rank violence in the Octagon, with Dunedin man Steve Parkinson saying he had seen "absolutely outrageous'' scenes there, including fighting at the rank three times.

Part of the problem stemmed from confusion over where the front of the rank was. He called for a barrier system and security guards to manage the flow into taxis, perhaps paid for by taxi companies or bars.

Cr Staynes said part of the new rank's position would make it clearer to people queuing where the front of the queue was.

There was also work needed on safety issues, included the possibility of people running across the central carriageway to the taxi stand, and the council would have to discuss the change with mobile food vendors who had leases for the central carriageway.

Cr Staynes said the council also had to work on signs.

"Our signage, while it says `taxi stand', doesn't say where the queue starts. We're looking at improving the signage so it's clearer.''

The council also planned to make sure it had CCTV footage of the taxi rank area. There were cameras there, but Cr Staynes said he understood they did not get a good view of the people queuing for taxis where the rank was now.

The council bought the cameras originally, and they were watched by police.

"It may mean that we have to buy one more camera.''Cr Staynes said the taxi companies had told him the problem at the rank was not too bad.

Mostly there were problems with people ''jumping in a taxi'' and others who were standing where the queue began trying to pull them out.

"It doesn't end up in fisticuffs, usually.''

However, there were physical confrontations.

"Generally, they've been just niggle.''

People at the stand were often drunk, and tended to queue at the same time, after bars closed, when there were not enough taxis to take them all at once.

The issue did not have to go back to the council for a trial to be put in place.

"I think it's a good outcome,'' he said.




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