A visitor to Auckland was charged $42.30 for a taxi ride of less than 1km thanks to a rule on short journeys.
Christchurch businessman Mike Beauchamp caught an Auckland Co-op taxi from Auckland Airport's domestic terminal to Butterfly Creek wildlife centre on February 14.
"We drove the 900 and something metres. And we stopped at Butterfly Creek, and he said, 'That will be $42.30 please'," Mr Beauchamp said. "He tried to explain it. I don't think he was overly sure and he didn't seem confident either. In other words, I think he was a wee bit embarrassed about it. But he said that's the price."
The fare was high because of a taxi premium of $25 for any trip that does not exit a specific area around the airport.
Mr Beauchamp later rang Auckland Co-op taxis to question the fare. Six weeks later the company's compliance manager, Mike O'Brien, confirmed the fare was correct.
Mr Beauchamp was taken aback to be told that if he had travelled for a further kilometre the fare would have been significantly cheaper.
The fare comprised of the $25 "airport environs" fee, a $7 fee for catching a cab from the airport, a $3 flagfall, plus meter and waiting time charges.
The general manager of Auckland Co-op, Barrie White, said the environs charge was needed because taxi drivers could queue for four or five hours at the airport for a fare. If that fare turned out to begin and end within the airport boundaries the driver would be well out of pocket, especially because of the $2 barrier fee to enter the airport.
His company was one of seven to pay an annual tendered licensing fee to Auckland Airport, which allowed them to collect passengers. If the $25 environs fee was not charged taxi drivers would potentially turn away customers, Mr White said.
But Graeme Osborne, the former head of Tourism Auckland, said such fares sent "all the wrong signals" to visitors to Auckland, especially in Rugby World Cup year.
"It's not helpful to our reputation. And certainly if it's based on the logic of the airport licensing or parking fee, then the logic needs to be rethought. Because clearly it's an unjust and unsustainable practice."
Mr Beauchamp agreed: "We often laugh - people from out of town - that if you get a cheap airfare sometimes it's cheaper than the taxi ride into Auckland. But this particular instance ... we're just going to think you guys are rip-offs."
Auckland Airport spokesman Richard Llewellyn said a new short fare system had operated at the International terminal, which allowed drivers who took trips for less than 20 minutes to regain their place in the queue. In the meantime, businesses near the airport like Butterfly Creek and JK's Golf are running shuttle bus services for customers.