Bunbury and Busselton taxi operators claim Government is dodging fares

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times
Bunbury Taxis Co-op’s Navdeep Kumar and Doug Slater and Busselton Taxi’s Jeff Devenny are angry about changes to legislation in their industry.
Camera IconBunbury Taxis Co-op’s Navdeep Kumar and Doug Slater and Busselton Taxi’s Jeff Devenny are angry about changes to legislation in their industry. Credit: Stuart McGuckin

South West taxi operators say changes to legislation set to come into effect in July will threaten their livelihoods and investments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Under changes designed to open the market the number of “on-demand transport” authorisations will be uncapped with yearly fees as low as $250 per vehicle.

Compensation will be offered to the owners of metropolitan taxi number plates which will lose their long-established value.

Regional ooperators are set to receive nothing as their plates have been traded privately part of small businesses after initially being released in limited numbers by the State Government under a pre-existing Act.

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Operators in Bunbury said at least 10 owners in the city owe more than $100,000, and some of them had invested in the industry as part of retirement plans with superannuation funds.

Bunbury Taxi Co-operative’s Navdeep Kumar said he had invested his life savings and took out loans to get into the industry in 2013.

“I pay $3000 a month in terms of bank loans and I am the only one who is working full time in my family,” he said.

The Bunbury co-operative employs six people to run a dispatch service that coordinates 25 taxis in Bunbury as well as helping to coordinate Busselton Taxi services.

Twelve of the plates are shared by the co-operative and leased out to drivers.

The co-operative’s Doug Slater said they would be unable to pay the dispatch workers once there was no income from leasing plates.

“Bunbury taxis will not be able to continue operating under our current structure – we’ll be finished,” he said.

“We provide a coordinated service for the community around the clock and our drivers will often spend hours without collecting fares during early morning shifts

“There will be no guarantee people will work those off-peak hours if we aren’t around.”

Busselton Taxi owner and operator Jeff Devenny has 12 cars and a heavy debt.

He said he had already been heavily impacted by Uber moving into his area in August.

“Our turnover has been down 50 per cent on Friday and Saturday nights in that time,” he said.

“Regional areas will lose regional taxi services and it won’t take long – especially if these changes go through.”

Currently taxis are also licensed only for particular areas but there would be nothing stopping authorised on-demand transport.

That means areas could be left without transport options if drivers leave to go cover other areas during big events.

“During the four days of leavers last year we moved more than 800 people,” Mr Devenny said.

“Of those people 157 were with maxi taxi jobs, most Uber drivers don’t cater for that. I’m not sure how those kids will get around if we’re not there in November.”

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