The first taxis of New Zealand known as Hansom Cabs date back to 1860. It’s hard to imagine they were not the motorised machines we have now but instead, a horse with a carriage in tow traipsing over mud-covered paths.
The first motorised taxis started cropping up on New Zealand roads in the early 19 hundreds. Taxi signage on vehicles first became compulsory in 1915 due to the high number of people attempting to hail private vehicles. The Auckland City Council ordered that taxis put a red “T” at the front of their number plates. As with many trades, women were first allowed to start working in the taxi industry during the Second World War.
It is not exactly clear when the first taxis arrived in the Wakatipu basin, though Queenstown Taxis claims the longest standing heritage in town. The name Queenstown Taxis was first incorporated in 1976. Company legend decrees that the sole traders displaying Queenstown Taxi signage go back a whopping 60 years ago to 1959.
In the last 60 years, Queenstown Taxis has endured 16 different Prime Ministers, the countries division over the 1981 Spring Bok tour, the stock market crash in 1987, the substantial floods in 1994, 1995, 1999, and the most recent global financial crisis starting 2007.
In the 21st century of transport, every taxi is a motorised vehicle. Signage is common practice, to the point oddly enough where taxis have become motorised billboards. Women readily drive even on the night shifts. Women driving taxis night or day the same as men feels like common sense but in the history of taxis, it is a relatively new development.
The age of instant communication and instant transportation has taken hold in our modern day living. The flying vehicles predicted by The Jetsons television series have not yet taken to our skies, but if we touch our phones in the right places, a cab appears in front of us without a word spoken or an arm flailed.
The newest and most important transition within Queenstown taxi companies is the shift to electric and hybrid vehicles. It is no longer good enough to say you planted trees to neutralise your carbon footprint. While the cost of a battery replacement is still a financial setback of the hybrid and fully electric cars, the growing conscience of the environmental impacts is a strong focus of each new taxi hitting the tar sealed roads of Queenstown. The shift to transportation that minimises environmental impact while remaining efficient and economical is the significant shift of modern-day taxis.
Some 100 years ago taxis became motorised, and some 100 years from now the people of the future will be writing about the important electric transition that is happening right now.
Article last updated 2018