More than 100 disadvantaged young people in Te Kuiti have gained their restricted drivers licence, thanks to an initiative funded by the NZ Transport Agency and AA, in partnership with Chevron New Zealand and Hyundai New Zealand.
The Community Driver Learner Programme (CDLP), run locally through the Waitomo District Council and the Te Kuiti Community House Trust, aims to address the challenges many young people face when trying to get their restricted licence and help them to develop safer driving behaviours.
“Te Kuiti was one of the first two communities where we launched the programme and it’s really exciting to see them reach the 100th graduate mark and hear about their many successes,” says the Transport Agency’s Access & Use General Manager, Celia Patrick.
Ms Patrick says youth are over represented in crash rates in New Zealand and improving their safety was one of the key priorities in the Government’s Safer Journeys road safety strategy (2010-2020). The initiative was developed to provide a way communities could work together to achieve that.
"This programme gives young people access to the support and resources they need, such as a suitable car professional driving lessons and an experienced driver to practice with - things many of us take for granted that are stopping too many learner drivers from achieving their restricted licence."
100th graduate Raymond Hughes,19, whose long term goal is to become a truck driver, says he feels privileged to have had the opportunity to participate.
“Not only have I learned to drive. I have been taught advanced tips on how to make my journey safer. I am now capable of transporting myself where I need to be. It’s a challenge when you live in a rural community without public transport.”
Te Kuiti Community House Trust Desiree McKenzie says the programme has been a great success for the local youth and the wider Waitimo community.
"This programme has showcased Te Kuiti as a community who work together to create holistic kaupapa,” she says.
"The programme reduces social and economic isolation by increasing employment and educational opportunities, through being able to travel to places of work and educational facilities."
“To all the sponsors and volunteers involved we thank you for creating such amazing outcomes for our whanau and community.”
Chevron (which markets the Caltex brand in NZ) provides fuel for the programme, through a $100,000 national sponsorship arrangement.
“Reaching this milestone is a fantastic achievement for the whole community, in particular Desiree and her team. It reinforces the immense potential this programme has for helping young drivers to become safer on our roads, as well as the positive results it’s having on their lives in general,” says Chevron NZ General Manager Dean Gilbert.
The programme has been set up in six communities in New Zealand, including Porirua, Gisborne, Christchurch East, South Auckland and Whangarei. These areas were identified as having a number of barriers for young people to achieve their licence, coupled with a high youth crash rate.
Funding for the programme has been extended until June 2016, during which time the Transport Agency will help Waitomo District Council to achieve their goal of owning and implementing the programme independently, says Ms Patrick.
"The Transport Agency is putting together a detailed guide to help these communities and others to set up and run the programme, based on the learnings we’ve gained from these pilot programmes. This will be released later this year and we are hoping communities around the country will take up the opportunity and help even more learner drivers to take safely to the roads."
In total nationwide, 202 young drivers have achieved their restricted licence through the programme, with a further 87 currently taking part.