Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

NZ could set world standard, Uber tells Bridges

Controversial taxi service’s chief strategist tells Transport Minister his ‘smart’ approach will be closely analysed.
Uber is allowed to keep operating its taxi service in New Zealand while rules are being reviewed. Photo / Dean Purcell
Uber is allowed to keep operating its taxi service in New Zealand while rules are being reviewed. Photo / Dean Purcell

Uber's chief strategist has told Transport Minister Simon Bridges that New Zealand's approach to framing rules concerning the taxi-booking service will be watched around the world.

David Plouffe, a former political strategist to United States President Barack Obama, has praised New Zealand's approach.

"What [Bridges] does in New Zealand will be closely analysed around the world - he's going through a really smart process and asking, 'What new regulations do we need?'" said Plouffe, who met the Kiwi minister at an international conference.

Uber, whose entry into many markets has been controversial, had been allowed to keep operating in NZ while rules were being reviewed.

"It's not just allowing services like ours permission to operate but how to regulate them. We're encouraged by the direction they're heading," Plouffe told the Herald.

He said Uber wanted to expand in New Zealand by introducing its pool service where riders share a car.

Bridges said the meeting with Uber was "interesting" because the company outlined the role technology was playing in passenger services in several countries.

"The discussion focused on global issues rather than specific New Zealand ones," Bridges said.

It was one meeting of about 35 Bridges had with transport ministers, private companies and non-governmental organisations.

David Plouffe praised New Zealand's approach. Photo / Getty Images
David Plouffe praised New Zealand's approach. Photo / Getty Images

Uber has more than 1000 drivers in NZ but the taxi industry argues Uber drivers are not subject to the same scrutiny as the staff of other operators and private cars do not have the same security cameras as are required in other operators' vehicles.

Plouffe spoke in a panel discussion at the International Transport Forum in Leipzig, sharing the stage with other new ride-sharing services and a representative of world taxi drivers, who say Uber has an unfair advantage over firms regulated at present.

International Road Transport Union secretary-general Umberto de Pretto said taxi drivers his organisation represented wanted a level playing field.

"The minute you pay for a service you need to know who the professionals are behind it," de Pretto said.

The use of a lobbying firm by Uber in New Zealand has been questioned and de Pretto said the company had 100 lobbyists around the world.

Plouffe said he didn't know how many lobbyists the firm used but it dealt with Governments on a range of issues and taxi groups also lobbied.

In London last week hundreds of black-cab drivers blocked streets around Parliament in protest at services such as Uber, and the company, now looking to raise US$1.5 billion ($2.1 billion), has faced opposition from cabbies in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Grant Bradley travelled to Leipzig courtesy of the ITF.

- NZ Herald

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