A well-known Illawarra tourism operator says he's ready to retire his motorbike tours after years fighting against inclusion in the "point to point" regulation designed for Ubers.
Now Illawarra tourism leader Mark Sleigh has come in to bat for a "central point of our visitor economy" over what he called bureaucracy gone mad.
Over decades Steve Melchior's Just Cruisin' motorbike tours have brought colout to tourism campaigns, the occasional travel show, and of course customers, which include NDIS participants he drives around in a motorbike sidecar.
It's the German-built Boom luxury stretch tricycle for which he is best known - as long as a small car and gleaming black and silver, it's hard to miss.
But Mr Melchior's ongoing trouble with the authorities isn't to do with the hardware - it's because his business has been lumped in with taxis, hire cars and Uber drivers under the "point to point" regulation and fees.
This means a $560 annual fee for something that is "absurd", Mr Melchior, 72, says. While taxis and Ubers take people from Point A to Point B, for his customers both these points are the same - start at and return to Stanwell Tops.
He has been battling the regime for multiple years, including last year when he wondered if he could go on. But now he said he's ready to go out shouting.
"I'm a tourist operator," he said.
"I don't take fares. I can't pick up from a rank. I can't tout for passengers. I can't take anyone to the airport, or anywhere else.
"All I can do is someone rings me up and says 'I want to do a tour of the Illawarra here'.
"I just want to keep doing things in my own area and just keep people happy."
Destination Wollongong general manager Mark Sleigh said he could not see why the problem isn't being fixed easily.
"Just Cruisin' has become a central point of our visitor economy, whether welcoming cruise ships, taking international agents on 'famils' or creating a bespoke leisure product for our visitors, Steve does it all," he said.
"He has worked tirelessly and free of charge for Destination Wollongong and Destination NSW over the past ten years.
"This appears to be an example of the bureaucracy gone mad which could be fixed with a stroke of the pen, allowing small businesses to get back to what they do best, welcome our guests to the city.
"A point to point vehicle takes passengers from one point to another; businesses like Steve pick up passengers and return them to exactly the same location. It's hard to see where the confusion lies."
Mr Melchior said he could name nine other tour operators in NSW who had walked away from their business because of "government interference in fees".
"They sent me the paperwork to cancel my registration as an operator - and and I've got it at home ready to print out," he said.
"But I thought 'I'm not going to go quietly on this one'.
"I could pay it, but it's the principle. They're killing me."
He said he had bailed up NSW Point to Point Commissioner Anthony Wing at a conference in Wollongong recently, after not being able to get through to him on email or phone.
He claimed Mr Wing agreed with him, but said the government was not going to review the policy until 2026. This is despite it being introduced by the previous government, many of whose policies have been dumped since Labor won office in March.
But when Mr Wing responded to the Mercury's questions this week it was the same answer he gave last year - he is commissioner but doesn't have any discretion as to how the policy is applied.
"It was good to meet and speak with Mr Melchior recently at my Industry Information event in Wollongong
"Under the point to point transport law, authorised service providers who carry passengers in vehicles of 12 seats or fewer must comply with the safety laws and pay authorisation fees annually.
"As the regulator for the industry, I administer the authorisation and licensing schemes established by the Act.
"However the amount of the fees is set in law and I have no discretion to vary them."
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