Improving the driver licensing system

A driver licence has been called the key to the door of life’s opportunities, but some people are missing out because of barriers in the driver licensing system.

Not having a driver licence can affect people’s access to employment, training, community activities, and health services for themselves and their families.

We set up the Driver Licensing Improvement Programme (DLIP) to reduce these barriers and make getting a New Zealand driver licence more accessible and equitable (fair) for people across Aotearoa New Zealand, no matter where they live.

Our focus is on groups that are overrepresented in the 10% of people who face significant barriers to getting a driver licence:

  • Māori
  • Pasifika
  • people with disabilities
  • new migrants
  • refugees
  • prisoners
  • those who live rurally or remotely.

A big part of the mahi is finding ways to better respond to Māori aspirations for the system and deliver solutions that meet their needs.

Better access to driver licensing will improve employment opportunities and community participation, resulting in more drivers trained to drive safely.

Māori needs and aspirations

Guided by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, we’re actively looking for ways our tiriti partners can help shape the system to meet the needs of Māori - including how we design, implement, and partner on changes to the driver licensing system.

An important part of this is meaningful and effective engagement with our tiriti partners and providers who know their communities well.

Who’s involved

The Driver Licensing Improvement Programme is a collaboration led by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency working closely with:

  • the Ministry of Social Development
  • Ministry of Transport - Te Manatū Waka 
  • NZ Police
  • Te Puni Kōkiri
  • Accident Compensation Corporation
  • Ministry for Pacific Peoples
  • Department of Corrections.

The programme also has support from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the Driving Change Network.

Driving Change Network(external link)

What’s been done

We've had kōrero with people involved in driver licensing across Aotearoa about the barriers people in their communities face, how we can reduce those barriers, and the ideas they have for a more equitable (fair) and accessible driver licensing system.

From this feedback we identified some changes we could make quickly to improve driver licensing and other changes that’ll take more time to develop and put in place.

Improvements already made

We’ve made good progress on the improvements we can make quickly.

We introduced a new type of driver testing officer – community driver testing officers, who provide focused support for communities that struggle with accessing driver testing.

We added more driver test routes – practical testing sites -  and we’ve made mobile theory testing available in more areas.

We’re developing more regional support as well as partnering on community trials in Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) and the Far North to improve access to driver testing.

More driver testing officers

A new type of driver testing officer, called community driver testing officers or CDTOs, has been introduced to support community driver training and mentoring programmes. 

  • CDTOs test people being supported by a community provider. They can offer more flexibility around test times and more pastoral support for students.
  • In mid 2022, the first group of CDTOs were trained. They’ve been working with community driver licensing support organisations in Tairāwhiti and the Far North. Since then more CDTOs have been trained and the CDTO service has been extended into Hawke’s Bay  and Ōpōtiki.
  • More CDTOs are being trained as the needs for specific communities are identified.

More driver test routes

To improve access to testing, we’re adding new testing routes across Aotearoa, mainly in smaller and more remote centres.

  • In the second half of 2022, new test routes were set up in Matamata, Upper Hutt, Kaikohe, Dargaville, Wairoa and Waipukurau, and in September 2023 a test route was opened in Ōpōtiki.
  • More test routes are being added as individual community needs are worked out.

More mobile theory testing

Working with AA, we’re trialling mobile theory testing through a community provider to see if it’s an effective way to reach people who’ve had difficulty accessing learner testing. especially people living in remote rural communities. 

In September 2023 a trial started with Eastbay REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) in Ōpōtiki, Bay of Plenty, to test the impact of having a community provider offering mobile theory testing in their rohe.

Better regional support

We've introduced new regional advisors to strengthen and develop community driver training and mentoring programmes in communities around Aotearoa. This will help our regions and communities to give better access and support to learner drivers.

Three safer driver education advisors have also been appointed. They’re working alongside community providers to create quality learning resources for driver training programmes.

A testing administration role is also being created to improve access to group bookings for community providers.

Regional advisors


Arthur Webber


Bex Gilchrist

Waikato, Taranaki, Wellington

Kelly Martin

Bay of Plenty and Tairāwhiti 

Arlouise Brooking

Hawke's Bay and Central (Manawatu and Wairarapa)

Davey Forbes

Marlborough, Nelson, Kaikōura and West Coast

Mackenzie Baird

Southland, Canterbury, Otago Regional Advisor

Tony Ratima-Lane

Safer driver education advisors

Toni Fauonuku, based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland 

Toni Fauonuku

Makareta McDonnell, based in Hawke’s Bay

Makareta McDonnell

Angela McDonnell, based in Christchurch 

Angela McDonnell

Community trials in Tairāwhiti (Gisborne), the Far North and Ōpōtiki

We’ve partnered with Far North REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) and Tairāwhiti REAP to trial new ways of making access to driver testing for restricted and full licences faster and easier.

  • The Far North REAP is working with local police officers qualified as driver testing officers to offer practical driver testing for REAP students. REAP and the police officers have worked closely together to understand local needs.
  • The Tairāwhiti  REAP has 2 community driver testing officers who are dedicated to testing students for their restricted or full driver licence. They understand the needs of these students. Many of them live in rural areas or small communities with difficulties accessing driver licensing.  

These trials have been in place since June 2022.

A third trial started with Eastbay REAP in Ōpōtiki, Bay of Plenty, in September 2023, to test the provision of mobile theory testing by a community provider for the first time.

What we learn from these community trials will help us develop a more effective driver licensing system.

The impact of these community initiatives on the lives of people in both Tairāwhiti and the Far North is shown in these stories and videos. 

Driver licensing stories

Longer term changes

We’re working on developing a case for government funding. The case shows why we need change in the driver licensing system to improve access and equity. It outlines what our future driver licence system could look like, and how we’ll achieve that over a number of years

Funding from Budget 2022

As part of Budget 2022, the Government announced $86.5 million in funding to support 64,000 more people to get driver licenses. The funding is for driver licensing support and removing barriers for people who have trouble getting a driver licence.  

A list of MSD approved providers who received funding for year 2 is now available.

GETS | Ministry of Social Development - Driver License Training and Support Programme(external link)

Programme newsletter

Our newsletter Improving Driver Licensing gives updates on how the work toward better access to driver licensing is progressing.

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 30 April 2024(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 6 December 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 29 September 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 27 July 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 31 May 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 29 March 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 1 February 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 7 December 2022(external link)

Subscribe to the DLIP newsletter(external link)