Waiheke locals are up in arms about a group of Auckland-based 'pirate' taxi drivers pretending to be locals and poaching business on the island.
Island Taxis driver Richard Cannon told the Herald that the problem first emerged last summer, with "two or three" drivers bringing their cars over on the ferry and operating - but numbers had been creeping up in the past few weeks.
He said there were about seven or eight drivers who had been "clogging up the rank" at the Matiatia Wharf ferry terminal at weekends in particular.
Cannon said some were even sleeping overnight in their vehicles.
He said the imposters were also - and perhaps the most offensive part - pretending to live on the island, putting signs on their vehicles saying so and marketing their supposed local knowledge.
"It's very infuriating and there's nothing we can do," he said.
He said it's frustrating that all the money they are making is going off the island and not back into the community.
Cannon said while five of their drivers were based in Auckland, 47 per cent of what they all made was handed back to the company, and injected into the island's economy.
The same couldn't be said about the intruder drivers, he said.
"All of it is going off the island."
Simon Nolan manages another much smaller taxi operator, Waiheke Five-O.
He said not only were the Auckland drivers claiming to be locals but also, in a few cases, impersonating local operators and "stealing" business.
Nolan said he had had customers that were meant to be theirs complain to them about "ridiculous" fares. He referred to one case of a customer being charged $37 to get from the terminal to the popular Cable Bay winery, which is two kilometres away. That service, he said, is usually about $10.
Richard Cannon said he and others had tried telling the drivers to "go away nicely" but had failed.
"They're not technically breaking any laws."
He estimated he was losing about a third of his income to the imposters.
Cannon said the government's sweeping changes, which came into force from October last year, were mostly to blame.
The rules effectively levelled the playing field between Ubers and taxis and mean that a driver doesn't have to work for an organisation to operate.
Waiheke local board member Shirin Brown is also fuming over the seemingly helpless situation.
"The reason it affects us worse is that a lot of our taxi drivers... rely on the summer trade for their income.
"So if you're a professional taxi business, this is potentially undercutting the stability of that business which runs throughout the year," she said.
Brown said it was tricky to define what it meant to be a local.
"If you're an off-island company that employs a local, is that off-island company or is it a local company because it is also providing an income for someone who lives locally?"
Brown said she was in the process of contacting all taxi drivers on the island about what, if anything, could be done.
Five taxi companies operate on the island, including Island Taxis, Waiheke Five-0, Waicabs, Easy Transport Waiheke and Waiheke Island Shuttles.