OPINION: Why Saving Uber Matters

by Joel Rowan, NZ Young Nats Digital Director


Those of us who weren’t on a beach or at Rhythm this summer, might well have been getting around Auckland or Wellington in an Uber. If you didn’t already know, Uber is a service that lets you order and pay for a car ride across town from your smartphone. It’s safe, it’s cheaper than regular cabs, it’s growing every day, and it is revolutionising access to taxi rides.

While Uber was growing, the Police were wasting resources enforcing a trivial regulation that forbids Uber as a “private vehicle hire service” from using a “taxi meter” to measure fares. The argument goes that the smartphones used by Uber drivers are “taxi meters” in the eye of the law. In other words Uber drivers are illegally charging for their trips when they use their phones’ GPS technology to work out the cost of your journey.

Of course Uber must comply with the law, but our government really needs to make sure that what’s on the books keeps up with innovators and doesn’t lock them out. The government has yet to move on changing the regulations, but they should. The status quo protects the outdated business models of old-style taxi companies, and shuts out innovators and entrepreneurs. This is the economic intervention we would expect from Labour or NZ First, not the open market and competitive environment we support.

I could just talk about Uber’s benefits, but I trust you can try it for yourself. It’s coming to Christchurch and Queenstown later this year. What I’m more concerned about is being a member of a party that promotes enterprise and competition – and views industry regulation with skepticism, at least.

We campaigned hard for this government to be re-elected but now we have to remind them to support innovative, new, digital-era businesses, not let them be stifled by regulation and big government.

I’ll be encouraging our MPs to change the regulations and I hope you will too. Just because we’ve been in government for a few years doesn’t mean there’s no red tape left to cut. Our party and the Young Nats need to keep flying the flag for freedom and smaller government.