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Taxis see off Wanaka carpetbaggers

Transport officials have put the brakes on a po­tential taxi turf-war in Queenstown.

Local cab companies were concerned when Wanaka’s sole taxi firm mounted a weekend cherry-picking exer­­­­­cise in the resort recently.

Drivers from Wan-A-Cab crossed the Crown Range on November 7-8 to operate their distinctive yellow cars from ranks in the resort’s CBD.

The move prompted the New Zealand Transport Agency – the body overseeing taxi licences – to step in and block further random raids.

NZTA’s Queenstown-based regulator Garry Bain says he had to act quickly “because the issue had potential to escalate if it wasn’t sorted”.

He’s written to Wan-A-Cab owner Kevin Black­ledge advising that anyone wanting to operate in the Wakatipu will have to comply with the same terms and conditions as existing operators.

“It means he would have to provide a 24-hour, seven-day service in Queenstown and would also have to be able to service his Wanaka responsibilities as well,” Bain says. “Basically it has to be a level playing field.

“I was aware Wan-A-Cabs had operated in Queenstown and was keen to see that cool heads prevailed. I didn’t want to see silly things taking place.”

Bain admits there was “room for confusion” over rules and regulations concerning a taxi firm from Wanaka wanting to operate freely in Queenstown.

But he adds: “We’ve clarified that now. There’s nothing really to stop someone setting up in Queenstown as long as they meet all the criteria.”

Three cab companies are already based in the resort – Queenstown Taxis, Alpine Taxis and Corporate Cabs.

But Queenstown Taxis boss Jackie Kukutai believes the Wanaka outfit broke an unwritten rule by treading on their turf.

“There was no consultation and what they did was in bad faith, really,” she says. “But we had a bit of a chuckle as afterwards they had to drive all the way back to Wanaka. We charge $160 to take people over there.”

When contacted, Wan-A-Cab owner Black­­ledge declined to comment.