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Whitestone Taxis drivers Shige Koyama (left) and Garry Meynell load up with the day’s Meals on Wheels deliveries. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

Whitestone Taxis has come to the rescue of Meals of Wheels in Oamaru.

Last month, all of the meal service’s delivery drivers were instructed to stay home because they were aged over 70 — leaving the 40-odd people that relied on the service missing out.

Waitaki District Health Services, which provides the meals, then contacted Whitestone Taxis.

“We had a talk to all the drivers and we decided to do it for nothing. There is no point in trying to stretch the hospital budget,” Whitestone Taxis owner Murray Bell said.

“We have a hell of a lot of vulnerable people that are needing meals on wheels and we have had volunteers that are over 70 years of age that have been doing it for nothing for years.

“It’s a bit of respect for those guys — they run their own cars and they have been doing it for nothing.’’

Mr Bell and his wife, Liz, own all the taxis and pay the drivers a wage, so the drivers still had an income, he said.

“It gives the guys something to do and that’s probably as important as anything.”

Whitestone Taxis is still operating 24 hours a day, despite turnover falling “at a similar rate as Air New Zealand’s”, Mr Bell said.

“We feel it’s something we need to do for the public, be available 24/7.

“For grandma that has to get home from the hospital because she was taken there in an ambulance at three o’clock in the morning, it’s priceless.”

The company is also keeping occupied by delivering papers, mail and prescription medicines to people’s homes locally, plus providing a small number of passenger services.

The drivers had protective equipment and had to clean the taxis after use, he said

Otago Daily Times