Wellington taxi drivers are being accused of taking a "mafia-like" approach to monopolising one of the city's most lucrative ranks.

Businesses have also reported drivers physically harassing parking wardens by surrounding them, in one case as many as six circled one officer, and "haranguing them about doing their legal job".

But drivers reject this characterisation of their behavior and say they are being unfairly targeted by the wardens.

In an effort to ease rising tensions Wellington City Council's Regulatory Processes Committee has today voted to push ahead with moving the rank from Mercer St to outside the closed central library.


Cab drivers "debranded" their vehicles to use the pay and display parks opposite the rank when it overflowed, Wineseeker owner Michael Hutton submitted to the council.

"[I] have also seen a 'lookout' system in place where drivers are tasked with spotting parking enforcement officers to reduce the visibility of their tactics."

Another retail store worker said the rank was a hazard.

"Taxis double parking, blocking traffic and drivers having heated arguments across the street is a safety concern, a nuisance and cause of fear and unrest."

Wellington City Council has significantly increased the presence of parking wardens in the area to improve the operation of the taxi stand. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Wellington City Council has significantly increased the presence of parking wardens in the area to improve the operation of the taxi stand. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Drivers were also reported to be using the private toilet facilities of businesses, which in one case resulted in police trespassing an individual, according to a submission from Ian Douglas on behalf of The Village Goldsmith.

Behaviour also included "intimidation of members of the public and blocking access to parking spaces by individuals standing in these spaces and barring legitimate members of the public from entering parks."

Moving the rank to the central library was just moving the problem, Douglas said.

"In the day of ride-share and new alternative transport solutions, why on earth are we persevering in even providing any space at all for these individuals who are flouting the laws and are a last-century business operation."


NZTA has contacted individual taxi drivers regarding their conduct, meanwhile council parking staff have significantly increased their presence to improve the operation of the stand.

"However, allocating so many staff to this one area is not sustainable and when staff are not present the issues raised by retailers return.

"It is understood that most of the drivers using this taxi stand are sole operators and therefore it is difficult to discuss issues at a company level", a report to the Regulatory Processes Committee read.

The existing five-bay taxi stand is set to be replaced by metered parking and moved to Victoria St outside the central library.

Ylak Tlahun has been a taxi driver for seven years and was parked in the stand on Mercer St when the Herald visited the location today.

He rejected what businesses had reported about drivers' behaviour and said that wasn't the problem.

Tlahun said drivers were "struggling" without enough stands in the city and too many taxis.

He blamed changes made in 2017 to the way the passenger service sector was regulated bringing taxis, shuttles, private hire and app-based services under the same rules.

This was in part to create a level playing field which would allow for new technology and encourage competition.

Tlahun also said drivers on Mercer St were being targeted by parking wardens.

"They are watching us like security, they stand here ... they are making us nervous, they're targeting us, they're hiding there."

The council was not fixing the problem by moving the stand and instead should be creating more ranks, Tlahun said.