Uber yesterday outlined its plans to expand into six additional New Zealand cities, including here in Rotorua. Uber already operates in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Dunedin and first launched in New Zealand in May 2014. However not everyone in Rotorua is welcoming the Ridesharing giant to town.
Sam Olley reports.
The wheels are in motion for Uber's arrival in Rotorua, but not everyone will be welcoming the ridesharing giant.
Rotorua is one of six new cities in this country, that the San Francisco-based company will be operating in from October, according to its announcement this morning.
The others are Taupō, Napier-Hastings, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Nelson.
Uber already operates in Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown, and Dunedin, after first launching in New Zealand in May 2014.
Amanda Gilmore, Uber New Zealand's country manager, said the launch to new cities was "a bold but well-researched move" but Rotorua taxi operators say it's sad news for them.
Gurpreet Dhoat, customer relations manager at Taxi Cabs Rotorua, said the company was "expecting it at some point".
"It will hurt our business. We also have a taxi business in Tauranga, and some of the drivers there have left to drive for Uber, and that's partly because we have had less demand."
Rotorua Taxi Society chairman George Melrose told the Rotorua Daily Post competition was "healthy, and keeps drivers on their toes" but he said taxis could not drop their prices.
"Of course we would rather not see them here... We haven't changed our prices in the last two years, even though the price of fuel and the cost of living has gone up."
He said there were about 50 taxis already operating in Rotorua, 36 of which were part of the society's fleet.
Melrose was sceptical about whether Uber would give back to the Rotorua community the way the society did.
"We gave out about $8000 last year, mainly sponsoring things. We do a lot to help causes for people with disabilities or illness if we have money in the kitty. A lot of people don't realise it either. Is Uber going to do that?"
Meanwhile, Hospitality New Zealand's Bay of Plenty branch president Reg Hennessy said having Uber in Rotorua "has got to be good".
"Getting people home safely is our number one priority, and this will give people more options."
He did not think it would encourage patrons to stay out later but expected more patrons would choose to have a night out, knowing Uber was an option.
Sharon Wallace, the Restaurant Association of New Zealand's Rotorua representative, said it was "about time" Uber launched in Rotorua.
"They were a bit slow off the mark I think... From the restaurants' perspective, it is a good thing but it will be sad if our taxis suffer."
Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templer said the organisation's business events team was often asked by conference organisers if Uber was available in the city.
"Rotorua is attracting more and more large conferences to the destination and many delegates expect to be able to use their app to get around the city... Uber will supplement the current taxi offering during these busy periods and help provide a positive experience for delegates and other visitors."
Rotorua Airport chief executive Mark Gibb said Uber had not yet formally approached him about offering rides to and from the airport.
"Any transport business at the airport we have to license. That covers conduct, presentation, and safety for the customer. We would be very happy to have a chat with them."
He said overall, Uber's announcement was "very positive and exciting for Rotorua".
The Rotorua Chamber of Commerce's acting chief executive Bryce Heard hoped the new ridesharing service would help the city's nightlife.
"It is surprising there isn't more out there for visitors to use."
Taupō mayor David Trewavas told the Rotorua Daily Post he had a courtesy call from Uber last week, about the imminent announcement.
He encouraged "any business looking at coming to the regions".
"We are very much open for business."
Great Lake Taxis owner Rajeev Kumar said Uber would "definitely have an effect on local taxis in Taupō".
"It is not a good thing for us. We are a small city."
Uber has not yet revealed whether Uber Eats, its food delivery service, will be launched in October as well.
Uber has about 6500 driver-partners in New Zealand and is live in 700 cities worldwide.
Street view: Are you pleased to see Uber coming to Rotorua?
I would use their service. I have used them elsewhere before and they were wonderful. The drivers respond straight away.
Kepa Whakatau, 60
It is an awesome thing, I am pleased they will be here. It saves me bussing places and they are normally cheaper than taxis.
Te Pora Makai, 20
You can't stop this kind of thing, can you? Certainly, it will make it harder for our taxis, it will thin everybody else out.
Ross Hammond, 60
I have been wanting to see it here for ages. I commute into town here a lot to see family and do shopping, at least once a week. Sometimes you get lazy and don't want to drive, and all you need to do is get on the internet, and it's still pretty cheap.
Megan Hati, 25