Authorities are trying to broker a peace accord between Queenstown’s two warring cab companies.
Police, council and NZ Transport Agency officials attended pre-Christmas talks called by newcomer Green Cabs after alleged intimidation and dirty tricks by long-established rival Queenstown Taxis.
Mountain Scene approached Green Cabs boss Diane Bramao, who confirms she called the December 15 talks but says things have “quietened down a little bit since”.
Bramao says that before the peace talks “my guys were coming to me on a daily basis really worried about the escalation of what was happening”.
Asked to elaborate, Bramao alleges:
threats of physical violence
attempts to run Green Cabs off the road
callouts to fake jobs
“It’s taxi warfare,” she claims.
“I’ve said to my guys, turn the other cheek and don’t retaliate.”
However, Bramao adds: “The [peace] meeting was very fruitful and we’re going to work together [with Queenstown Taxis].”
Queenstown Taxis boss Robbie Caldwell agrees relations appear to be back on the right track.
“It was a meeting that was absolutely overdue and we were very, very pleased to meet with them,” he says.
With 51 cabs and 76 owner-operators and drivers, Queenstown Taxis is the Goliath in this battle – so how does Caldwell respond to Bramao’s claims?
“There’s a formal complaint procedure laid down by law,” he says, stressing he invited Bramao at the meeting to forward “any individual written complaints she may have”.
“I’ve received nothing in writing so I have nothing to respond to,” Caldwell says.
Bramao alleges the aggro began when Green Cabs started up in May.
“They’ve been physically threatening our drivers ever since we’ve been here.
“We’ve got quite a few ethnic drivers and a lot of them were being told to go back where they came from,” she also alleges.
All 27 owners and drivers of the 18 Green Cabs are established Wakatipu residents and only she and her husband are out-of-towners, Bramao says – they hail from Christchurch.
“We’ve come here to open a business – as anyone has the right to do.”
Lakes Environmental enforcement boss Lee Webster confirms he and NZ Transport Agency’s Brian Hawkins were at the December meeting and are playing peacemakers.
“Everyone’s trying to make a dollar but you have to abide by the rules,” Webster says. “If we have to have some kind of accord, that’s what we’ll do.”
A draft accord will be presented to the cab combatants at a follow-up meeting this month, he says.
Webster says he’ll also pose two key questions: “Have we got too many taxis out there? Will the companies limit the numbers [of cabs] as a voluntary thing?”