$1 every 12.5m

Homeward trek: Mark Wilson at the Ballarat St/Stanley St crossing back in 2016

A well-known blind Queenstowner’s been taken for a ride.

Musician Mark Wilson says he and a friend on crutches were charged $12 to get an independent cab from the top of Queenstown Mall to his home up Ballarat Street – 150 metres or less than a minute’s drive away.

Wilson says he usually walks up the hill but on Christmas Eve he had “a fair amount of luggage” with him.

“The driver, to be fair, told me [at the start] what the cost was, but I needed a cab and I didn’t want to linger for too long.”

During the trip, Wilson says he asked the driver what firm he worked for.

“He said ‘it’s private’.

“I had no idea that there were cab companies who are not companies, obviously it’s just like open slather, now, or there is the potential for open season for cowboys.

“There must be a whole lot of people who are just ripped off to the hilt – and the cab driver had the cheek to say ‘Merry Christmas’.”

Since the taxi industry was deregulated in 2017, a large number of independent cabs, many without branding, meters or security cameras, have joined the ranks.

Queenstown Taxis managing director Grant Scannell says it’s “disgusting for a long-time local and, dare I say it, a person with a disability, to be taken advantage of”.

His firm would have charged Wilson $5 maximum – “sometimes my guys don’t charge him anything”.

Unlike the independent cabs, Queenstown Taxis accepts total mobility taxi vouchers which also take 50 per cent off a fare, he confirms.

Scannell is hopeful Queenstown Lakes District Council will follow through on its plan to limit access to taxi ranks “so we don’t have those cowboys out there”.