The Community Driver Mentor Programme in Gisborne has been a great success story for the region. The programme is a significant safety initiative funded by the Transport Agency, the New Zealand AA, NZ Police and sponsors Chevron (Caltex) and Hyundai New Zealand.
The programme addresses the disadvantages that some learner drivers in the 16 to 24-year age group can face getting their restricted licence, such as access to a suitable vehicle, a mentor and driving practice. The programme helps drivers with learner licences become better and safer drivers by providing opportunities for supervised experience with driver mentors in a range of driving conditions. The programme in Gisborne is delivered in partnership with the Gisborne District Council and Tairawhiti Police and operates at the community level with community providers managing a number of learners.
The mentors are not driving instructors but rather volunteers from the community who act as coaches, supervising the practice driving sessions during the 12-week programme. They have received professional driving training from AA driving instructors and have committed to spending up to two hours a week to help these young people get the experience needed, giving them a better chance to pass their test. Gisborne Mayor, Meng Foon, and several local police offers are mentors on the programme.
The learners are supervised by volunteer mentors, each of whom looks after up to three learners. Vehicles are provided by the Transport Agency and fuel is donated by Chevron. The initiative has been welcomed by the community.