Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) chairman Peter Boxall has said there are likely to be changes to proposed taxi reforms based on feedback at a western NSW meeting on Tuesday.
Operators and drivers from across the region attended the IPART hearing at Dubbo where they had the opportunity to comment on a draft proposal to increase the number of taxi licences in regional areas and freeze fares for most major centres.
The feedback they provided the panel including Dr Boxall was of an industry that would struggle to cope and wouldn’t be able to maintain a high level of service.
High running costs and the competition from bus services, community transport and courtesy cars had already crippled the industry and further changes could be the final blow, they said.
Dr Boxall said he wouldn’t preempt the tribunal but said the submissions and feedback provided would be important in shaping the final report.
“I think it’s more than likely we will make some changes to the draft recommendations,” Dr Boxall said.
“This hearing was valuable, it reinforced and was consistent with the previous hearings in Coffs Harbour and in Sydney.
“It’s quite clear competition is moving very fast with the taxi industry and it’s quite clear a number of operators are struggling.”
The meeting was well attended with more than 30 taxi operators and drivers from as far as Wagga, Yass, Bathurst, Mudgee and Orange in attendance, as well as NSW Taxi Council CEO Martin Rogers and representatives from Roads and Maritime Services.
Mr Rogers was pleased by the turnout and submissions presented to the hearing but was less satisfied with the IPART report.
“The startling thing that has come out is IPART have created draft recommendations and they admitted they didn’t have any data to back it up from the taxi industry,” he said.
“How can you make recommendations about the livelihoods of people across regional NSW when you don’t have the data?
“My takeout is this draft needs to be scrapped and redone. Get the data and then do it.”
Dr Boxall said IPART did have access to data, but had seen very little information from the taxi industry.
“We had the best possible information that was available to us. If someone has better information they think would help us come to a different decision we would welcome that,” he said.
The chairman of the Dubbo Taxi Co-op Greg Collin said some drivers had already indicated they would leave if the proposal was adopted.