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Uber reaching out

Uber driver Simon Johnson, of Masterton, is hoping more drivers will sign up for the service here. PHOTO/BECKIE WILSON

But local cabbies say customers dwindling in current climate


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Uber has a toe hold in Wairarapa with a registered driver calling for others to sign up, but cabbies say there is no demand for the service here.

Masterton-based Uber driver Simon Johnson says the town needs more drivers for the ride hailing service to run, but Rideshop Cabs owner David Lee said it would not be profitable for the app-based service to set up in the region.

Mr Johnson, has been driving for Uber over the past six months and believes he is the only Uber driver in Wairarapa.

The demand for drivers is in Wellington, he said, which sees him taking a couple of days off work each week to make the most of the capital’s busy weekends.

But as a Masterton resident, and the owner of KSN Visual Solutions, he is hoping more drivers will sign up in Wairarapa to boost awareness of the cheaper service.

“At the moment, we need more people to make it work,” Mr Johnson said.

Since being a driver, he had only taken two separate passengers from Masterton to Wellington.

He said it was only a coincidence that they checked the app when he was available.

It was still very new to Wairarapa but people would become more aware of its existence once there were more drivers.

Those who enjoyed driving and wanted to earn extra cash on the side should consider it.

“Basically, [Uber] sees the need for more drivers, it is still at a really early stage.”

He said it was not a matter of need for the service, but about driving prices down for a more convenient service for the public.

According to Uber, the fare from Kent St in Carterton to Wairarapa Hospital would cost between $30 to $40. Using a taxi would cost about $53 for the same route, according to New Zealand Taxi Fare Finder.

Uber allows users to get cheaper fares by using the phone app to book and pay drivers working on contract with the international company.

Uber has been operating only in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch since it started in New Zealand three years ago. There is talk of it expanding to Hamilton and Tauranga.

While Mr Johnson says there is a lot of potential for Uber in the region with its population growth and regular events, Masterton-based taxi companies say the demand has “dwindled” over the years.

Masterton’s Rideshop Cabs owner David Lee questioned why Uber would come to Masterton.

“I don’t think there is enough business for them to set up here,” Mr Lee said.

The decrease in pub work in Masterton had lowered the demand for taxis.

There were about “half the number of bars than there used to be” and “every pub has a courtesy coach”.

“People just aren’t going out like they used to . . . it has just dwindled.

“We used to have five or six cars out on a Saturday night, and now we are just doing bookings only,” he said.

“The thing with Uber is you need numbers to make it run. They need turnover to be functional,

“I’ve been running the numbers for years, I know what it is like.”

Mr Lee does not think Uber would be a threat to his business.

Masterton Shuttles owner Chris Rangi shared a similar opinion to Mr Lee’s.

He can’t see the demand for another service as “at the moment, everything seems to be quiet”.

The recent liquor licence changes, and a lack of regional events were a factor to the overall lull in demand, he said.

While he is not aware of Uber setting up here, “If it does, we will just have to adapt”.






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