Bega Taxi Service threatened by 137 unrestricted taxi licences for country NSW

Bega's taxi operator says introducing unrestricted taxi licences in country NSW will put further strain on his business.
Bega's taxi operator says introducing unrestricted taxi licences in country NSW will put further strain on his business.

Taxi drivers want to put the brakes on a recommendation to introduce 137 new taxi licences across regional NSW.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has written a draft report for NSW Minister for Transport Andrew Constance suggesting the introduction of 137 new licences to operate anywhere in NSW, excluding Sydney.

Currently 1378 taxi licences are allocated to country towns throughout NSW.

John Byers has operated taxis from Bega to Narooma for 20 years. He said introducing more taxis to the area is not economically viable.

“It’s a commission based industry and at the moment you can sit all day from 8am to 11pm and the car won’t earn $100,” he said. 

“There is no room for more competition.”

Mr Byers runs two taxis for the Bega Taxi Service with one other driver. He currently has four taxi licence plates on hold in the Roads and Maritime Services office.

“I can’t put them on the road because there is not sufficient work to employ someone and provide them with a decent living wage,” he said. 

“I used to run 11 cabs, now I couldn’t give these plates away for free, the demand just isn’t there anymore, especially in our coast region.”

The 137 new taxi licences are unrestricted, meaning the licence holders can operate in any NSW location outside of Sydney, whereas Mr Byers’ licence only allows him to work within the Bega and Narooma region. 

NSW Taxi Council CEO Martin Rogers said big corporations or foreign investors could buy up the new licences and push out the little guys, leaving country towns without a local taxi service.

“IPART’s recommendations will encourage gypsy cabs, who cherry-pick events rather than offer a full-time service,” he said.

“The country taxi industry relies on peak times like Friday and Saturday night to sustain them during the week, if this is taken away then country operators will have no choice but shut down.”

Mr Byers said the new licences will add to the strain already created by the introduction of ride-share operations in the region.

“We don’t operate in Bermagui at all anymore because there are two ride-share drivers working there now,” he said. 

“We can’t compete, it’s not a level playing field because the amount of regulation on the taxi industry isn’t extended to them.

Mr Byers said if the current climate continues, his taxi service could be totally depleted in a few years.