Region’s taxi licence owners deserve fairer compensation

Janelle Saffin MP is extremely disappointed that the NSW Government's taxi industry assistance package is not offering fair compensation to regional taxi licence or plate owners.

LISMORE MP Janelle Saffin says she is extremely disappointed that the NSW Government’s latest taxi industry assistance package does not offer fair compensation for buying out regional taxi licences.

An Upper House Inquiry in 2020 found that the NSW Government was solely responsible for the destruction of value in taxi licences in New South Wales and recommended the NSW Government buy back licences.

Ms Saffin, who this week met with Lismore Taxi Co-operative President Justin Stevenson, has vowed to take local taxi licence owners’ campaign for fairer compensation into State Parliament next week.

She is one of 60 Lower and Upper House MPs who have signed a pledge, demanding ‘fair and proper compensation’.

Mr Stevenson said the NSW Government was currently offering up to $130,000 for a regional taxi licence or plate, but the real figure for Lismore’s 16 owners was a paltry $55,000 for each of the 24 licences which they hold.

“It’s insulting and disrespectful because we borrowed or invested an average of $250,000 for each of our plates … they were our superannuation nest eggs for when we retired from the industry,” Mr Stevenson said.

Historically, the highest price paid for a plate in the Lismore area was $316,000.

Mr Stevenson said the $130,000 buy-out figure only applied to four zones, including Tweed Heads, Ballina and Coffs Harbour/Sawtell.

“The package lacks transparency because Lismore’s figure is $55,000, Mullumbimby’s $75,000 and Byron Bay, Kyogle and Casino are sitting as low as $25,000,” Mr Stevenson said.

“There should be an independent inquiry into how all of this has been handled.”

Ms Saffin said the NSW Government’s treatment of taxi owners — small businesspeople simply having a go — had been disgraceful since the rise of Uber had forced the deregulation of the industry.

FLASHBACK: Lismore MP Janelle Saffin signs the NSW taxi industry pledge for ‘fair and proper compensation’ at the city’s taxi rank in Carrington Street in February this year. With her are Justin Stevenson and his fellow owner-drivers.