Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
Hot Topic NBR Focus: GMO
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Uber seeks government affairs manager to lobby for regulatory change in NZ

Taxi drivers have protested at the double standard.

Jonathan Underhill
Mon, 12 Sep 2016

UPDATE: Uber has now filled this position

Uber, the ridesharing service company that has refused to comply with licensing rules it says are too expensive, is stepping up efforts to engage with the parliament, advertising for a new executive role as head of government relations and public policy.

In April, the smartphone-based driver service dropped the requirement that its drivers have a passenger (P) endorsement for their licence or a certificate of fitness for their car even though the NZ Transport Authority says the P endorsement is a legal requirement. Uber argues the cost of a P endorsement runs to about $2,000 and its in-house checking costs as little as $20.

Taxi drivers have protested at the double standard and demanded they be banned from operating and the standoff prompted Transport Minister Simon Bridges to warn Uber's drivers last month that they could be taken off the road. However more recently he has signalled a compromise may be in the offing, saying he was looking to make the cost of a P endorsement "much cheaper".

Bridges introduced the Land Transport Amendment Bill to the parliament today. It includes modernising regulation of small passenger services, simplifying the requirements "to accommodate new business models" and reducing compliance costs while maintaining safety standards, he said. A spokeswoman said the government is also working on bringing down the costs and timing associated with getting a P endorsement.

In the advertisement for a government lobbyist, Uber says relatively simple reforms are needed - "the right for one citizen to drive another citizen across town so long as certain important consumer protections requirements are met."

"The idea is not all that radical. But in many cities outdated regulations are holding back progress-and in places where reform has been possible, entrenched interests often try to turn the clock back," it says.

The successful candidate, who will be based in Auckland, needs to be a strong campaigner, the ad says.

"Smartphone apps are disruptive, and the interests being disrupted are deeply entrenched," it says. "So you'll need to put together proactive campaigns involving passengers, drivers and third parties that demonstrate there's a better alternative to today's outdated status quo. That means having a bias for action in everything you do and a willingness to engage in debates, that can often become heated."

The lobbyist will be required to establish Uber's brand and profile with policymakers - including governments, third parties and academics - and work to ensure "that the regulatory framework in New Zealand supports ridesharing apps like Uber."

The government has been under pressure to find a compromise because its partners such as the ACT Party have picked up on the issue, saying they P-licensing system is "outdated" and Kiwis are safer in "GPS-tracked, consumer-rated rideshare services".

"The government's attitude toward taxi safety has been leapfrogged by technology," ACT leader David Seymour has said.


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Jonathan Underhill
Mon, 12 Sep 2016
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Uber seeks government affairs manager to lobby for regulatory change in NZ