Corowa Taxi Manager Daryl Howard fears proposed plans for more taxi licences in country areas would kill country cabs.
Some taxi services across regional NSW have shut down and more could follow suit if the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) draft recommendations is adopted.
IPART’s report says that releasing more licences in country areas would improve competition, which would remove the need for fair regulation.
However, Mr Howard says this is not the case, especially in country areas like Corowa.
“The market is already depleted in the country,” he told the Free Press.
“Corowa Taxis have been operating for years and I have never seen it like this.
“We can’t afford to buy more licences, it’s not worth it.”
Mr Howard is concerned that if the report is adopted, it will be big corporations or foreign investors who will buy up these licences, pushing out the little guys and putting an end to locally-owned services.
“These new licences won’t mean better service it will simply force out long-time reliable operators who have strong connections in the community,” he said.
The NSW Taxi Council has put together a petition to the NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure.
Meanwhile, IPART has a feedback period with three hearings and a chance for the public to lodge a submission against the report.
On Thursday, February 8 taxi drivers will meet in Coffs Harbour to discuss the impact of changes to fares and licences from July.
Mr Howard is calling on the community to show their support for country taxis by writing a short letter to the NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure asking the
government not to adopt recommendations from the report.
Mr Howard said taxi operators in Jindabyne, Gundagai and Berry on the NSW South Coast have already closed down causing devastating consequences on the local tourism sector.
“Those in the taxi industry around rural and regional NSW have seen a number of our friend’s businesses close down - we just can’t keep up with the inequities between us and our competition anymore,” he said.
“It will have an impact on our community from local merchants, pubs, clubs and health services who rely on our business to your nanna and pop, school children and people with disabilities.
“We don’t have many ridesharing apps or providers out here and the ones that do operate do so at their own convenience, providing transport only on weekends or special events.
“This will leave the community high and dry during non-peak times and weeknights.
“The taxi service would go from local drivers to a call centre who don’t have personal knowledge of our local people or understand any of our major events or sports programs.
“We pride ourselves by using local drivers who know the clientele and can accommodate their various needs.
“We ask the government not adopt this report. We want to remain viable. We want to work with government to do this but we need them to listen.”
Meanwhile, on February 1, the NSW Government introduced a Passenger Service Levy (PSL) that affects all NSW passengers in a taxi, hire car and ride-sharing service.
Passengers are now charged an additional $1 + GST per trip ($1.10).
The levy will be in place for up to five years to help fund the NSW Government’s industry adjustment assistance package of up to $250 million — a condition the state government agreed to when it legalised ride-sharing two years ago.
The government says the levy is designed to help taxi and hire car licence holders adjust to the industry changes.
It is up to each service provider to decide whether to absorb the levy, or to pass it on to customers.
Transport for NSW will publish a new taxi fares order under the Point to Point Transport (Taxis and Hire Vehicles Act) 2016 to enable taxi service providers to also pass on the cost of the levy to passengers.