Those in the disabled community who rely on taxis to get around are petitioning the Government to reinstate the full funding that was in place during the initial Covid-response period.
It gave people who can't drive independence, and advocates say with rates now back to normal, those who can't foot the bill of a taxi are once again cut off from the world.
Petitioner Ari Kerssens says that includes him.
“I'm totally blind in my right eye, and in my left eye I have tunnel vision, it's like looking through very, very muddy water”, he told 1 NEWS.
Catching a bus isn’t easy and getting behind the wheel’s not an option for Mr Kerssens.
So, like many who're physically or mentally impaired, he relies on taxis to get around independently.
That's why the total mobility scheme exists.
“It's basically a scheme that gives people that have a mobility issue, half price transport,” Mr Kerssens said,
But because it's considered part of our public transport network, like buses and trains it was free during the Covid-19 response period.
NZTA figures show in that time there was a huge increase in use of the scheme.
On the last day before normal rates resumed, June 30, there were close to 80 percent more trips and more than 1000 extra active clients, compared to the same day last year.
“It allowed freedom,” Mr Kerssens said
Disability Connect chief executive Mike Potter said it took another barrier away.
“It enabled people who would normally use the scheme maybe occasionally to actually use it all the time, particularly if you had to go get groceries, medical appointments. It really took another barrier out of the equation and helped people to live good lives,” Mr Potter said.
“On a disability benefit which a lot of TM clients are you don’t have a lot of spare money for travel,”
Mr Kerssens said.
“Quite often the benefit they would perceive from going to even just see friends would be outweighed by the cost and people would stay home, stay isolated,” he said.
In a statement the Ministry of Transport said, “the Government is committed to improving the wellbeing of people with impairments in New Zealand, including those with long-term mobility impairments. The Ministry of Transport recognises the importance of accessibility and how the Total Mobility scheme supports these objectives”.
“When considering whether to enable clients to permanently use the Total Mobility scheme for free (or at a lower cost) for a longer term, the Government would need to determine the additional funding this would require.”
“The Ministry of Transport will soon be undertaking an assessment of the provision of services for people with different transport needs. This assessment will review the adequacy of the Total Mobility scheme and identify options for responding to any barriers or gaps in service.”
Mr Potter said, “politicians should seriously be looking at this because it's in line with the NZ Disability strategy, equal opportunity when it comes to education and employment, access to the community particularly with dignity and respect and choice and control, being able to access the community when you want”.
“I think you'll find providers will put on more taxis and that means for someone who's just an occasional user of the service, who has various appointments at different times, and finds it hard to get a taxi at the moment, there should be more availability”
Making it free for just under three months cost an extra three million dollars.
“Twelve million dollars a year to give something that is actually a right, I think it's essential the Government needs to fund it”, said Mr Potter.
“I can't put too high of a price on a scheme that enables people to have the lives they want”