Changes to learner and restricted driver licences

In September 2021, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency consulted on the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Rule (No 2) 2021, which proposed the following changes:

  • Make learner and restricted licences valid for 10-years (the same as the full licence) when a licence-holder renews their licence.
  • Remove the 90-day time restriction on renewal, allowing these licences to be renewed any time before expiry.
  • Remove the requirement for the licence holder to re-sit and pass a theory test to renew their licence.

Consultation on the proposed changes was carried out to make getting a licence more accessible and remove cost and stress for drivers by allowing them to stay at their licence stage if they choose to or gain the skills and confidence to progress to the next licence stage at their own pace.

The changes will also alleviate pressure on the driver licensing system that has a substantial backlog due to COVID lockdowns and is expecting approximately 3,000-5,000 learner and restricted licence holders a month will apply to have their learner or restricted licence renewed between now and late 2023.

Waka Kotahi received a total of 554 submissions on the proposed changes and after considering all the feedback on the questions posed during consultation prepared final draft amendment Rule for the Minister of Transport's approval.

Summary of submission report which includes responses to the points raised [PDF, 492 KB]

Final amendment Rule

Note that this amendment Rule comes into force on 1 December 2021.

Frequently asked questions

  • Why is there a five-year limit on a learner and restricted licence?

    As novice drivers and motorcyclists gain skills and experience, they were expected to move from a learner licence to a restricted licence, then to a full licence, within a reasonable timeframe. The five-year limit was intended to provide a balance between providing sufficient incentive for individuals capable of progressing to do so but avoiding forcing those who do not feel skilled enough to progress.

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  • Why remove the five-year time limit on learner and restricted licences?

    The costs of tests (theory and practical) and renewing a licence prevent some people progressing to a full licence and penalises those that choose to remain on a learner or restricted licence for good reason, like only using a moped or to transport children, or as a form of identification.

    There is no safety concern that led to this approach and no clear evidence or data to show that drivers on time-limited licences have a higher risk of crashes.

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  • How will learner and restricted licence holders benefit?

    By removing the time limit on learners and restricted licences we take away the cost barrier, time pressure and stress of sitting and passing a theory test - you will be able to remain on a learner or restricted licence for as long as you like (and renew it every 10 years) or to progress to a restricted or full licence more easily.

    This also has a social and economic benefit because a young person is more likely to get employment if they have a restricted or full driver licence.

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  • Why don’t licence holders progress to a full licence?

    There are a range of reasons licence holders don’t progress to a full licence, such as:

    • the cost of theory and practical tests
    • the cost of renewing the licence
    • no adequate supervision/training
    • no access to a road legal vehicle to be trained in, or to take to a practical test.
    • only needing a learner licence to ride a moped
    • only wanting a driver licence for identification
    • having other transport options
    • no access a vehicle to learn to drive
    • in the case of a restricted licence, only needing to transport children or a spouse.
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  • Why does the expiry of time-limited licences put pressure on the driver licence system?

    Between now and late 2023, approximately 3,000-5,000 licence holders a month will have their time-limited licence expire. These licence holders will then be ineligible to drive and will need to renew their licence for a fee, pass a theory test and be issued with another five-year time-limited licence.

    Despite increasing testing officer numbers, the practical driver testing system does not have the testing capacity and driver licensing agents would struggle to process the renewals before they expire, and licence holders may have a long wait for a driving test to progress onto the next stage. COVID-19 lockdowns have compounded this and will continue to affect most regions for some time, especially Auckland.

    The proposed Rule change will help alleviate the incoming bottleneck and manage the flow of applications, allowing people to remain on their licence for the purpose they need it for, without pressure to progress.

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