James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Cabs leave women stranded at night

Tracey Anderson (left), Amy Keene (centre) and Kate Loader  were refused taxi rides by several companies outside the Vector Arena. Photo / Supplied
Tracey Anderson (left), Amy Keene (centre) and Kate Loader were refused taxi rides by several companies outside the Vector Arena. Photo / Supplied

Three women were left stranded on the kerb by taxi drivers late at night and told to "just walk" to their hotel as it was too near to be worth the fare.

Amy Keene, 22, of Whatawhata near Hamilton, said she and her two friends had to walk in an unfamiliar city late at night after enjoying Cirque Du Soleil's Saltimbanco at Vector Arena in Auckland on Thursday night.

The women flagged down at least three taxis about 10.30pm, but were told by all that they should "just walk it" after they asked to be taken to Gladstone Rd in Parnell.

It would usually take about 15 minutes to walk there.

"We'd wave down these taxis and they'd say, 'Where are you going?"' Ms Keene said. "When we told them it was Gladstone Rd, basically they all said, 'It's just around the corner - walk', and then they'd just drive off. We couldn't get their details because these guys drove off too quickly."

Under the Operator Licensing Rule drivers can decline fares only if potential customers are drunk, eating food, filthy or refusing to pay.

Ms Keene said the trio were concerned for their safety. They walked through unlit areas and crossed a road to avoid drunk men in a carpark.

"It was dark in parts and there were quite a lot of trees and shrubs and we commented about how easy it would be for people to be hiding in there, especially with three young girls."

NZ Transport Agency regional manager Andy Thackwray said the fare-refusal issue happened occasionally, "but not often, thankfully".

An NZTA sting in Central Auckland this year resulted in Auckland taxi company Urgent Cabs being ordered off the road for not accepting short fares.

The investigation found Urgent Cabs drivers were responsible for 80 per cent of short-fare complaints. Two of its drivers were handed instant $400 fines during the operation.

Mr Thackwray said those refused a fare needed to note the driver's identification, the taxi company's name and the car's fleet number before laying a complaint with the company or the Transport Agency.

He said the agency would be working with police to clamp down on fare refusals and taxi compliance issues during Rugby World Cup 2011.

"We recognise there will be a lot of people using taxis over the next six or seven weeks and this could attract undesirable behaviour," he said.

The NZTA has orange-stickered hundreds of taxis that have passed safety checks for RWC 2011 in addition to their mandatory, six-monthly certificate of fitness checks.

"During the tournament, if we see taxis with orange stickers we know they have been safety-checked ... It will allow us to focus on the ones that are less likely to be compliant."

NZ Taxi Federation Auckland executive member John Bryant said fare refusals were rare but there were still "a few cowboys out there".

"We thought either those companies might have joined together to comply or don't exist any more. But it sounds like there are still a few like this there."

- NZ Herald

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