New driver licensing services for Ōpōtiki will open the door to more prospective drivers and safer roads.
On 20 September 2023, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Vehicle Testing NZ (VTNZ) will open a new route for Class 1 driver licence testing in Ōpōtiki. This means residents will no longer need to travel to Whakatāne to sit their practical tests, saving them time and money.
“We know that getting a driver licence is a big step in helping people achieve independence and access to training and work opportunities, so it’s great to be offering this option in Ōpōtiki,” says David Speirs, Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships for Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
VTNZ National Technical Manager, Craig Basher, says VTNZ is very pleased to work with Waka Kotahi to improve and expand driver testing services.
“We will have a driver testing officer in Ōpōtiki each fortnight and will assess demand over the coming months and adjust as needed if it is higher than expected. Bookings are open now and I recommend that those wanting to sit their practical Class 1 restricted or full licence get in quick, as new services tend to fill up fast.”
Local organisation Eastbay REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) will be employing two community driver testing officers (CTDOs) to test students attending their driver licensing programme in Ōpōtiki.
The CTDO role was introduced by Waka Kotahi in June 2022 to offer people facing barriers getting their licence another option to public testing services. There are currently 16 CDTOs nationwide.
“We know this will provide our hard to reach whānau with another option, having someone from their own community testing them for their driver licence,” says Eastbay REAP CEO, Dr Ryan Morrison.
“Previous trials have shown great results for tests where community testing officers are involved. The combination of a local testing route and local testing officers will be a game changer for increasing the number of safe and licensed drivers in our region.”
Eastbay REAP has also been contracted to provide mobile theory testing in the Ōpōtiki district, the first community provider in New Zealand. Dr Morrison says it will provide the test in a range of settings, including remote communities, and at marae and kura. Eastbay REAP will be responding to community requests on where to take the service.
Dr Morrison says, “We’re excited to provide our rural whānau with access to an essential service. We see licensing as a human right that enables whānau to travel safely in their community, to get to work, school, health services etc…”
Both initiatives are part of the cross-agency Driver Licensing Improvement Programme, led by Waka Kotahi, to improve access to driver licensing.
“The new driver licence testing route combined with a testing officer, two community testing officers and the mobile theory testing will mean much easier access to driver licences for our people,” says Ōpōtiki Mayor David Moore.
Providing communities with new practical driver testing routes and community-based services are some of the first solutions from the cross-agency Driver Licensing Improvement Programme, led by Waka Kotahi.
Ōpōtiki is the fifth test route established in the last 12 months. Others have been established in Waipukurau, Wairoa, Kaikohe, and Dargaville.
David Speirs said as well as individual benefits there was an important shared advantage;
“Having more trained and licensed drivers makes our roads safer for everyone.”
People can book their practical driver licence test in Ōpōtiki on the Waka Kotahi website:
https://online.nzta.govt.nz/licence-test/ (external link)