Country towns to be exempt from $1 taxi levy - but not Bendigo

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BENDIGO residents could pay a $1 levy for every taxi trip as the state government attempts to pass its ride-share levy through parliament.

But there’s better news for rural taxi users, including those in Castlemaine, Heathcote, Rochester and Wedderburn. They look set to be exempt from the levy.

The Greens convinced the government to exclude country areas, but Bendigo will likely be classified as a “metro centre” despite taxi companies facing little local competition from Uber at the moment.

The levy will fund compensation for existing taxi licence-holders once ride-sharing is made legal in Victoria. It will apply to every taxi, Uber or hire car trip.

It was cut in half from $2 after Sex Party MP Fiona Patten made an amendment.

The state government believes taxi costs will come down overall however, with the levy to replace annual licensing costs.

Victorian Greens transport spokesperson Samantha Dunn said it was crucial that country towns were not left worse off when the levy came into place.

Uber is yet to take off in Bendigo.

Uber is yet to take off in Bendigo.

“We were conscious of pensioners living in small country towns, who need to use taxis to get to and from home,” she said.

“We didn't want to see a big tax slapped onto small, short trip taxi fares.

“These changes will ensure the bill is fairer and still delivers compensation to people that have been affected by the introduction of ride-sharing.”

The Andrews government initially rejected calls to make country areas exempt from the levy, believing the different rates could cause legal and administrative problems.

They also planned to introduce a rebate scheme to provide “geographic equity”.

The Greens had support to pass their amendment however, and the government conceded.

The levy will only apply in Melbourne, along with central Bendigo, Ballarat and Geelong.

The bill was subject to a marathon sitting of parliament last week, and will need to pass the lower and upper houses again before becoming law. Taxi companies have seven weeks to lobby the minister.

The levy is a response to a taxi industry inquiry which recommended a levy to compensate for the loss of taxi licences.

Taxi owners will receive $100,000 for their first taxi and $50,000 each for their next three. There will also be a $50 million fund to assist taxi drivers facing hardship.