Uber is today celebrating five years of business in New Zealand - during which time it has driven Kiwis a total of 230 million kilometres; the equivalent of driving around the world 5737 times.

Five years ago Aucklanders started downloading the app which provided them another way to get home after a night on the town, or to zip across town to a business meeting.

The San Francisco-based company quickly became a popular transport option - and has since expanded to seven locations across New Zealand.

Uber's New Zealand manager, Amanda Gilmore, said it's been an "incredible" five years.


"We started out small, it was a new technology and concept that people weren't used to. Now we're an everyday word, and thing that people use.

"I think just the scope, and the way we've integrated into society, has been fantastic."

Uber expanded into Wellington near the end of 2014, before popping up in Christchurch at the start of 2016.

Hamilton was next on the list, and was shortly followed by Tauranga, Dunedin and Queenstown.

Gilmore said 485,000 New Zealanders regularly used Uber. The service has about 6500 drivers on its books.

Amanda Gilmore, Uber's New Zealand manager. Photo / Supplied
Amanda Gilmore, Uber's New Zealand manager. Photo / Supplied

While the company had made a big impact on Auckland's transport landscape, Gilmore said there is more ground to cover.

"We're really excited about how we can continue to make people's journeys even easier - by working with Government, complementing and working with public transport.

"We're making it easier for people to leave their cars at home," Gilmore said.


JUMP scooters would soon launch in Wellington - an e-scooter brand owned by Uber. "Jump by Uber" is one of two e-scooter companies in the Wellington City Council trial - the other is locally-owned start-up Flamingo.

Lime - despite being part-owned by Uber - is fuming at being missed out.

"We are shocked and disappointed not to have been chosen as one of the operators to take part in Wellington's electric scooter trial," Lime NZ public affairs manager Lauren Mentjox told the Herald.

Uber has hit several roadblocks since launching here in 2014, while officials scrambled to figure out where it fits into our transport landscape.

In 2016 the Government announced sweeping legislation changes. New safety reforms meant ride-sharing operations must ensure drivers have the same industry licences and adhere to the same regulations as taxi companies.

Under the new rules, an Uber driver found to be transporting a passenger for payment without the proper passenger endorsement licence could be hit with a $500 fine.

The Transport Agency started issuing no-drive notices to Uber drivers operating with serious medical conditions. NZTA staff were banned from using Uber on work time.

Around the same time, the international transport app faced an internal revolt, with drivers complaining a fare cut made it hard to run at a profit.

Rules for Uber New Zealand were adjusted again in 2017, when the company lobbied the Ministry of Transport for a relaxing of regulations.

The changes included cheaper and faster P endorsements for drivers to allow them to carry passengers legally.

In May last year, Uber drivers over the country took a day off work in protest over the cut Uber takes from each ride, a lack of job security and uncertainty over whether Uber cars were covered by personal insurance.

The move could not be referred to specifically as a strike, because drivers are not unionised.

Across the ditch, Uber Australia and its parent company are at the centre of a major class action, involving more than 6000 taxi and car-hire drivers, operators and licence holders.

The company is facing allegations it operated illegally, and as a result, has had an unfair competitive advantage over taxi and hire-car industry participants.

The lawsuit comes as Uber prepares for its listing on the US share market later this month. Some analysts have estimated Uber is worth more than NZ$180 billion.

After five years of driving Wellingtonians to their destinations, Sene Tuineau is known by his regular customers as the "Godfather of Uber".

Gilmore can attest to his popularity, with Tuineau having the highest number of 5 star ratings of all New Zealand drivers.

Sene Tuineau was recognised by Uber for being the company's most prolific driver, at a dinner in May 2017. Photo / Uber
Sene Tuineau was recognised by Uber for being the company's most prolific driver, at a dinner in May 2017. Photo / Uber

The 73-year-old has clocked off more than 30,000 trips with Uber since he started driving for the company in 2014.

Tuineau moved to Wellington when he shifted to New Zealand from Niue in 1965.

"I went around and worked at a few companies - the meatworks, a bus company and a taxi company," Tuineau said.

"Now it's Uber."

The best part of the job, he said, was meeting different people every day - and picking up tidbits of knowledge from them about their industries and upbringing.

While Tuineau insisted he enjoyed chatting with all of his customers, he said some of the more exciting pick-ups have been for some of the country's top rugby players - including All Blacks and Hurricanes star Beauden Barrett.

"The most famous person that's been in my car is Beauden Barrett," he said.

He's also driven Kieran Read and Ben Smith, he said, both of whom were "good company".

The growth of Uber in New Zealand

• A total 230 million collective kilometres have been travelled in Uber trips in New Zealand - the equivalent of driving around the world 5737 times.
• The most rides taken by one rider in one day was 46, in January 2017.
• An Auckland-based driver partner has racked up 152,738km.
• The most popular pick-up spot is Queens Wharf, in Auckland.
• One New Zealand Uber rider has also used the app in 22 other countries.
• The busiest day in Uber's five-year history in New Zealand was Saturday, December 15, 2018.
• New Zealand's nicest Uber rider has given 1006 compliments.