Warring cabbies pledge peace in a new pact

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Peace has broken out among Queenstown’s warring cabbies – yet traces of tension still hang in the air. 

After initial talks in December, peacemaker Lee Webster of council regulator Lakes Environmental has now brokered a “code of conduct” between Queenstown Taxis, Green Cabs and Corporate Cabs. 

Among numerous pledges, the code calls for taxi companies to appoint “transport inspectors” to monitor their cabbies.
Other conditions prevent taxis from blocking traffic – for example, U-turns in Queenstown’s Camp Street are banned, as is rank-jumping by parking outside the Night & Day store. 

The taxi war first surfaced in Mountain Scene in January when Green Cabs boss Diane Bramao accused Queenstown 

Taxis of intimidation and dirty tricks – alleging physical threats, racial taunts, callouts to fake jobs and attempts to run her cabs off the road. 

“It’s taxi warfare,” she cried, accusing the 51-cab Queenstown Taxis of continual hostilities from last May when Green Cabs launched its 18-vehicle fleet. 

At the time, Queenstown Taxis boss Robbie Caldwell roundly rejected Bramao’s allegations but nevertheless joined her in welcoming Webster’s peace initiative. 

Now the peace treaty’s been finalised, Mountain Scene asked both taxi bosses for reactions. 

Bramao says things have settled down but refuses further comment: “The decision was made that [Webster] will be the spokesman for this accord.” 

Caldwell is happy with the code of conduct and has already appointed himself as his firm’s enforcer. 

“As a service organisation, you should be looking at yourself all the time,” he says. 

Mountain Scene: Since the code was finalised, has Queenstown Taxis made any complaints about its opposition – and has your opposition made any complaints about you? 

Caldwell: “No comment. That’s something we should address in private – we don’t need to drag it up in public.” 

Brian Hawkins, the NZ Transport Agency officer for Queenstown and Central Otago, also had a hand in the pact. 

Hawkins will keep a watching brief over how cab companies manage the accord, he says. 

He’s confident peace will endure and suggests Queenstown’s traffic congestion may have contributed to taxi tensions. 

Caldwell is more explicit: “There are probably 20 per cent more cabs [in the resort] than 12 months ago. There are a very small number of cab stands and a lot of taxis – they’ve got to sit somewhere.” 

Queenstown Taxis has lobbied the council for more ranks and Caldwell believes “something is under way”.