Taxi drivers are being told their vehicles can be no older than 10 years if they wish to operate from the ranks at Hawke’s Bay Airport.
The airport confirmed the move to Hawke’s Bay Today, citing a desire to heighten travellers’ standard of taxi service.
However, taxi operators will be able to seek exemptions, which will be based on factors such as the condition of the vehicles and the length of time a driver has had their cab as well as the programme for upgrading.
Parveen Klair, a director and driver with Hastings Taxis, said it could be an issue for people who had recently bought a taxi or upgraded with a pre-used vehicle if it was getting close to 10 years old.
He expects there will be applications for exemptions, but the company’s 26 shareholders are yet to meet to discuss the issue.
“We need time,” he said. “It would be hard for us to suddenly update.”
Major operator and Napier-based Hawke’s Bay Combined, which has more than 40 vehicles on the road and caters for the largest share of the airport demand, discussed the situation with airport management. Combined’s general manager Wayne England said initially they proposed that taxis be under seven years old.
But he said the point was made that the taxi industry – “like other industries” – is still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic and Cyclone Gabrielle, urging the delay of upgrading some vehicles, and the guideline was relaxed to taxis less than 10 years old.
“We are working through the process,” he said. “I support it 100 per cent - this is the gateway to Hawke’s Bay, (and) it’s important that everything looks good. They will give extensions if appropriate.”
On the ranks at the airport, Half Price Cabs owner-director Karan Dogra, whose company operates up to 10 vehicles, said he had already approached the airport company and expects that if any exemptions are needed for the fleet or drivers there won’t be any issues getting them granted.
It was in the company and drivers’ interest to maintain up-to-date vehicles, he said. “People don’t want to sit in a shabby cab.”
Hawke’s Bay Airport marketing and communications lead Clare Hollings said the airport had recently updated “transportation agreements” with taxi companies operating at the airport.
In addition to Hawke’s Bay Combined (Napier Taxis) and Hastings Taxis, smaller operators Half Price Cabs, Baywide and Cab4 Taxis have agreements.
Uber is not considered to be a taxi company, being a business operating on a pre-order pick-up and drop-off basis, but still has to comply with a transportation agreement between the airport and the operator.
“The purpose of having a vehicle age rule is to ensure that airport customers are offered the best possible standard of taxi service,” Hollings said.
Exemptions will be considered on an individual vehicle basis, and both the airport and England say similar agreements operate at other airports.
For example, Queenstown Airport requires approved “independent commercial transport operators” to have an “average” age of vehicles no older than 10 years, with other conditions including a company to hold public liability insurance for at least $5 million.
Doug Laing is a senior reporter based in Napier with Hawke’s Bay Today, and has 50 years of journalism experience in news gathering, including breaking news, sports, local events, issues, and personalities.