Uber welcomed in Otago - just play by the rules

Richard Saunders
Richard Saunders
As long as it plays by the rules, competitors and local authorities are relaxed about Uber's expansion into Otago.

The ride-share giant has announced it hoped to launch in Queenstown and Dunedin by May.

Worth an estimated $6.5billion, the company operates in more than 630 cities, including five in New Zealand.

But when it first began in New Zealand the company was criticised for flouting transport rules and using drivers without passenger endorsements.

Both the NZ Transport Agency and the police have fined Uber and its drivers for not obeying the Land Transport Act.

Since last October Uber has required all its drivers to hold a P endorsement, pass a background check, be insured, be able to be tracked by GPS, and hold accreditation, so they would comply with the relaxed transport laws.

All drivers are also required to be aged over 21.

A poll of more than 1200 people on the Otago Daily Times website found 85% would order a ride using the app.

Dunedin City Council transport group manager Richard Saunders said the council was confident the city's infrastructure was good enough to deal with the demand Uber could create.

There were no worries about the service coming to Dunedin as it gave customers more choice.

Under the city's bylaw, Uber vehicles would be allowed to use taxi stands to pick up already booked customers but would not be allowed to use them as a rank when waiting for bookings, Mr Saunders said.

Over time, taxi stands could be changed to small passenger vehicle stands to recognise the new legislation.

Uber had sent a letter informing the council it planned to expand to the city and council staff were happy to meet the company, he said.

Queenstown Taxis managing director Grant Scannell, a New Zealand Taxi Federation board member, said he could not say what impact Uber's expansion would have because it had not happened yet.

Mr Scannell said he expected more congestion on the roads with Uber, which went against what the Queenstown Lakes District Council was trying to achieve.

There needed to be more enforcement of passenger vehicle laws which were being flouted by some self-employed passenger services, he said.

''As long as they play by the rules and the rules are enforced fairly, Uber is just another competitor and we'll work hard to offer a better service.''

Taxi federation director John Hart said Uber's impact on taxi companies had been less than first feared but it still needed to play by the rules.

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