Taxi future fears for regional communities amid calls for fair treatment
Bunbury and other regional communities could soon be left without a 24/7 taxi service, as the industry feels the pressure of the “inequitable and unjust” State Government taxi plate Buy Back scheme.
More than 800 WA taxi owners have signed a petition calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the inequities between the metropolitan Buy Back scheme and the regional assistance scheme.
Lead petitioner and Bunbury driver Navdeep Kumar has worked in the industry for 14 years and said Bunbury was at high risk of no longer having a 24/7 taxi service, which was not a problem metro areas faced.
Mr Kumar said the petition was crucial for the regions.
“At the moment we’re not being fairly treated,” he said.
“There is no encouragement or incentive for new drivers to come into the industry.
There’s no viability in the taxi industry.
Mr Kumar predicted the future would see more part time drivers.
“People who were sticking to the industry for 30 or 40 years, now they’re leaving and people will drive for two or three years until they get a better job and leave the industry,” he said.
The plate Buy Back scheme was aimed at minimising the loss of investment for owners who wanted to sell their plates back to the government, but regional drivers feel they were ripped off after some spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying a taxi licence.
South West MLC Adele Farina said regional communities had benefited from access to 24/7 taxi services for decades and had taken for granted this service would continue.
“Under the Buy Back scheme, metropolitan taxi owners were paid a floor price of $100,000 but regional taxi owners have been offered $20,000 only, despite having invested similar amounts to purchase taxis,” Ms Farina said.
“Deregulation of the taxi industry has resulted in taxi owners losing their investment in taxi plates.
Many took out loans to purchase the taxi plates and now have been left with a debt they will struggle to repay due to decisions made outside of their control.
Ms Farina said without financial assistance equal to that paid to metropolitan taxi owners, country towns may lose their 24/7 taxi services as it becomes financially unsustainable.
Mr Kumar said country drivers were not asking for special treatment, but equal financial support as given to metro taxi owners.
“There is disparity in the way taxi drivers are treated in regional areas,” Mr Kumar said.
The petition will be presented to parliament this week.
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