Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Taxi camera regime a 'shambles'

Industry fears for drivers' safety, blaming fake and faulty security equipment, and wants government help.

Police are investigating a fraud case involving the sale of 700 counterfeit and faulty versions of New Zealand Transport Agency approved cameras to Taxi companies. Photo / David White
Police are investigating a fraud case involving the sale of 700 counterfeit and faulty versions of New Zealand Transport Agency approved cameras to Taxi companies. Photo / David White

The taxi industry fears an increase in violent attacks on drivers as criminals become aware that as many as half the security cameras installed in cabs do not work properly.

The Taxi Federation says the compulsory security camera regime brought in two years ago after fatal attacks on two drivers is "becoming an uncontrolled shambles" and will meet the Government this week to lobby for urgent legislation to rectify the problem.

Police are investigating a fraud case involving the sale of 700 counterfeit and faulty versions of New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) approved cameras to two Auckland cab companies and Christchurch's Blue Star Taxis.

While there were media reports that Auckland's Sail Cabs bought the cameras, the company says that is not the case and all of its in-cab cameras comply with NZTA requirements.

However, Taxi Federation executive director Tim Reddish has warned Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee the problem goes beyond the fake cameras.

In a recent letter, Mr Reddish said publicity about the fake cameras "highlighted serious systemic flaws in the entire security cameras compliance regime".

"It is estimated that up to 50 per cent of the cameras currently installed nationwide are either not working, or can be interfered with by drivers to change time and date data settings, or images are unable to be retrieved due to encryption system failures or software unavailability.

"It also appears that in many cases the systems approved by NZTA were not true to the approved specification when installed."

Mr Reddish last week told the Herald there was a marked drop in assaults on drivers when the cameras were introduced.

"Once the public becomes aware that cameras aren't working in 50 per cent of the cabs, then the opportunities for crimes, assaults and attacks on taxi drivers open up again. If the criminal element are aware they're not working then the whole thing is a waste of time.

"It's no secret that NZTA compliance staff acknowledge that the situation is fast becoming an uncontrolled shambles."

Mr Reddish said the current legislation did not give NZTA the power or proper inspection procedures to ensure cameras were working properly.

Mr Woodhouse told the Herald he would remind Mr Reddish when they met this week that the federation's members were legally responsible for making regular checks to ensure the cameras were operating as they should.

"I am concerned that some taxi companies seem unaware of their legal responsibilities in this regard, and will be asking the Taxi Federation to remind their members of this fact."

NZTA regulatory systems design manager Mark O'Donnell said the agency monitored taxi companies to see that the checks were carried out. "While NZTA is concerned at these taxi camera system problems, overall the taxi camera regime has made passengers and drivers safer."

Not working

Instances where faulty taxi security cameras have hampered police investigations:
June 2012: After an alleged sexual assault on a passenger by a Christchurch taxi driver, no footage could be retrieved from the security camera and no charges were brought.
November 2012: Footage from a taxi security camera was needed for evidence in an armed holdup case, but again could not be retrieved.

Blue Star Taxis, Christchurch

- NZ Herald

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