Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Christchurch taxi drivers protest against Uber

Christchurch taxi drivers have hit the streets today in protest of global ride-share giant Uber.

Around 80 drivers have picketed outside the Christchurch offices of National MP Nicky Wagner.

They are demanding that Uber drivers are subject to the same rules they are.
Uber has told its drivers they don't need a P-endorsement - a background check and identification card - in order to carry passengers, which is against the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) requirements.

The NZTA says it has caught nearly 60 Uber drivers operating illegally in Christchurch in the past month.

Blue Star Taxis driver Upesh Patel says the local industry is upset at the "unfair playing rules".

"Uber has been operating outside the law and we are asking the Government for all companies to be on the same page, in the interests of customer safety," he said.

Without adhering to industry regulations, Uber can offer cheaper rates, which is unfair, Patel said.

Wagner thanked the drivers for voicing their concerns over "an important issue".

The Government has made it "very clear" that all small passenger services operators require a P-endorsement, and must adhere to work-time limits and vehicle certificate of fitness requirements.

Operators in New Zealand's 18 main urban areas must have an in-vehicle recording camera, but operators could apply for exemptions, Wagner said.

Uber says all of its driver-partners in Christchurch have passed a "stringent" criminal history check via the Ministry of Justice, and driving history check with the NZTA.

Vehicles must be 2006 or newer, pass a vehicle inspection, have at least private third party property damage insurance and hold a current Warrant of Fitness.

It also says technology helps ensure safety before, during, and after every ride, including giving riders information about their driver, tracking trips using GPS, enabling riders to share their ETA or route, and incorporating feedback from riders and drivers.

An Uber spokesman says the company has been "overwhelmed by the positive response" since Uber was launched in Christchurch earlier this year.

"Christchurch has become our fastest growing city in New Zealand, with thousands of applications to become an Uber driver-partner, and tens of thousands of people downloading the Uber app to request a ride," he said.

"This is an incredible reflection of the way in which Cantabrians have embraced a new safe, affordable and reliable way to get from A to B."

- NZ Herald

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