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Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule 1999

This rule specifies the requirements for obtaining and renewing a driver licence or licence endorsement in New Zealand. It also specifies the requirements for driver licensing service providers.

Rule versions

  • The ‘Current rule’ will give you the most up-to-date version of the Rule and any amendments made to it. We recommend this as your reference point if you want to read the most current information.
  • The ‘Original rule and amendments’ will give you the very first version of the rule (as it was when it was first created) as well as links to all amendments made to it over time. We recommend this page as your reference page if you want to research the history of the rule.

Note: Both of these pages will also provide links to the consultation material – such as summary of submissions and FAQs (questions and answers) – for each version and amendment.

Questions and answers

Questions and answers are provided to accompany a new rule or amendment when they are signed. These and other consultation documents on this page have not been updated to take into account any later rule amendments and are retained for historic interest only.

Land Transport Rules - Questions & answers

Q&A for Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Rule (2008)

Rule 91001/4

General questions

1. What are Land Transport Rules?

Land Transport New Zealand produces Land Transport Rules in collaboration with the Ministry of Transport. Rules are signed into law by the responsible Minister under the Land Transport Act 1998 (the Land Transport Act). Rules are ‘second-tier’ legislation, with a similar status to that of regulations made under a statute (Act).

Rules are made in respect of a wide range of matters covered by the New Zealand Transport Strategy. These include safeguarding and improving land transport safety and security, improving access and mobility, assisting economic development, protecting and promoting public health and helping to ensure environmental sustainability.

2. What is the purpose of this amendment Rule?

This Rule makes changes to the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) 1999 (the Driver Licensing Rule), which specifies the requirements for obtaining and renewing a driver licence or licence, and the requirements for providing driver licensing services.

3. How did this amendment Rule originate?

The proposals in this amendment Rule were included in draft Land Transport Rule: Omnibus Amendment 2007 (the draft Omnibus Amendment Rule), which was released in August 2007 for public consultation. The purpose of the Omnibus Amendment Rule was to propose changes to a number of existing Land Transport Rules, which included the updating or clarifying of requirements and the correction of minor inconsistencies or oversights in Rules.

Following consultation, the provisions in the draft Omnibus Amendment Rule were split into separate amendment Rules, including this Rule.

4. When does the amendment Rule come into force?

The removal of the theory test requirement applies from 1 September 2008. All the other changes come into force on 16 June 2008.

5. Was the public consulted on the proposed amendments?

Yes. In August 2007, Land Transport New Zealand advised about 2500 groups and individuals registered on the Rules consultation database, by letter or email, of the proposed changes contained in the draft Omnibus Amendment Rule, and invited them to make submissions. Printed copies of the draft Omnibus Amendment Rule and the summary of the proposed changes were made available to people on request. The draft Omnibus Amendment Rule and information material were also available on the Land Transport NZ website.

Public notices seeking submissions were placed in the daily newspapers in the metropolitan centres (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) and the Minister's intention to make the amendment Rules was notified in the New Zealand Gazette.

6. What is the legal basis for the amendment Rule?

The Land Transport Act 1998 allows the Minister of Transport to make Land Transport Rules. Rules are drafted in plain English and go through an extensive consultation process with interested groups and the public. This is to ensure that they are easily understood and are widely complied with. Rules are usually prepared by the NZ Transport Agency under contract to the Ministry of Transport and, like regulations, have the force of law.

Main changes to the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule 1999

Theory test for overseas licence conversions removed for exempt countries

7. What tests do overseas licence holders have to do now when they convert to a New Zealand driver licence?

All overseas licence holders, including those wishing to convert to a New Zealand Class 1 (light four-wheeled vehicle) and Class 6 (motorcycle) licence, are required to pass an appropriate theory test when converting their overseas licence to a New Zealand driver licence. Some overseas licence holders also have to sit a practical test.

The Driver Licensing Rule exempts, from a practical driving test, licence holders of specified countries considered to have a driver licensing system and driving standards that are comparable to New Zealand's, provided they have held their overseas licence for at least two years.

8. What has the amendment Rule changed?

From 1 September 2008, drivers applying to convert their overseas licence to a New Zealand Class 1 (light four-wheeled vehicle) or Class 6 (motorcycle) licence will not have to pass a theory test if their overseas licence was issued by one of the specified countries whose licence holders are currently exempt from passing a practical driving test in New Zealand. Applicants who are applying to convert heavy vehicle licence classes to New Zealand's equivalent classes (ie, Classes 2-5) will still have to pass an appropriate theory test in New Zealand.

9. Why has this change been made?

The theory test is largely a historical requirement that provides an opportunity to ensure that overseas licence holders read the Official New Zealand Road Code, as a condition of obtaining a New Zealand driver licence. It is, however, proving to be inconsistent with government policy objectives in other areas. According to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic 1949, overseas licence holders from countries that are parties to the Convention, are entitled to drive in New Zealand on their overseas licences for a continuous period of up to 12 months, before being required to convert to a New Zealand licence.

It is difficult, therefore, to justify New Zealand requiring people from specified countries, who are deemed to be experienced and competent drivers (by virtue of the country that issued their overseas licence), to pass a theory test after they have been permitted to drive here for 12 months. The proposed change will align New Zealand with the practice adopted by a number of countries (eg, Australia and United Kingdom) that do not require overseas licence holders from specified countries to pass a theory test and a practical driving test when converting an overseas licence.

10. Was the theory test causing any other problems?

The theory test requirement was proving to be an impediment to New Zealand's ability to negotiate licence recognition arrangements with the governments of other countries. New Zealand authorities are aware that Australia has been able to negotiate arrangements of this nature with certain countries that have so far been reluctant to enter into similar arrangements with New Zealand because of the theory test requirement.

11. What is a licence recognition arrangement?

Licence recognition arrangements with other countries improve the international portability of driver licences. These arrangements would enable New Zealanders who are living and working in those countries to convert their New Zealand licence to the domestic licence of that country under reduced requirements (ie, without having to sit a theory or practical driving test). New Zealanders who live and work in countries that do not currently recognise New Zealand licences for the purpose of licence conversion are effectively treated as if they are novice drivers, and have to start the licensing process from the beginning.

Progressing through the full licensing system of those countries can be difficult, expensive and time-consuming (eg, if New Zealanders have to sit a theory test in a language other than English, or they are required to undertake compulsory driver training). As a result, New Zealanders are at a disadvantage when seeking employment or when doing business, compared to people whose licences are recognised for direct conversion.

Licence holders from those countries with whom New Zealand has such arrangements would have reciprocal privileges when they converted their overseas licences to New Zealand licences.

12. Will the removal of the theory test adversely affect road safety in New Zealand?

The removal of the Class 1 and Class 6 theory tests for licences issued by countries whose licence holders are exempt from the practical driving test in this country is not expected to compromise road safety in New Zealand. As most of these drivers would have been driving in New Zealand in the year prior to their application for licence conversion, they would have had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with New Zealand's unique road rules (eg, the Give Way rule). There are other ways in which information on New Zealand road rules can be provided to them (eg, when they visit the driver licensing agents to convert their overseas licences to a New Zealand licence).

Moped riders using a Class 6 learner licence

13. What licence is required to ride a moped?

The Driver Licensing Rule allows a person to ride a moped on either a learner car licence or a learner motorcycle licence. Learner motorcycle drivers, who are better qualified by virtue of having had to pass a Basic Handling Skills Test before obtaining the learner licence, are prohibited from carrying pillion passengers. However learner car licence holders who ride a moped can carry pillion passengers.

14. What changes has the amendment Rule made?

It is now illegal for a moped rider who holds only a Class 1 learner car licence to carry a passenger.

15. Why has the change been made?

The change aligns the restrictions on moped riders who hold a learner car licence with those riders who hold a learner motorcycle licence, and is expected to enhance the safety of moped riders.

Use of tractors in tests and driving assessments

16. What vehicles can be used for tests at present?

When doing a practical driving test, the Driver Licensing Rule requires an applicant to use a vehicle that relates to the permitted maximum gross laden weight or maximum gross combined weight of the class of licence sought. From time to time, candidates have presented for a test on a tractor.

17. What has the amendment Rule changed?

The Rule now prohibits the use of a tractor for a practical driving test.

18. Why has the change been made?

Tractors are now disallowed for use in a practical driving test because they are not representative of the type of vehicle that would normally be driven on a car or heavy vehicle licence.

Recognition of an International Driving Permit

19. What is allowed at present?

Visitors to New Zealand are allowed to drive using their valid and current domestic driver licence or an International Driving Permit. The Rule, as drafted, did not make it clear that the requirement to also hold an accurate English translation only applies if the overseas licence used is not in English.

20. What has changed?

The Rule clarifies that, for the purpose of driving in New Zealand, the existing requirement for an accurate English translation of an overseas licence specifically applies to a non-English overseas licence.

21. Why has the change been made?

The change has been made to clarify that the requirement to hold an accurate English translation of an overseas licence does not apply to those who drive using an International Driving Permit. This is because the Permit already has vital information about its holder in English.

Publication and information

22. Where can I get copies of the amendment Rule?

Final Rules are available on the NZ Transport Agency website(external link). Printed copies of Land Transport Rules can be purchased from selected bookshops throughout New Zealand that sell legislation.

Most Rules can also be purchased direct from the Rule printers and distributors, Wickliffe Ltd, telephone (06) 358 8231.This amendment Rule was drafted by the Parliamentary Counsel Office and printed copies are not available through Wickliffe but can be purchased through Legislation Direct (telephone (04) 568 0005).

Rules may also be inspected at regional offices of the NZ Transport Agency.

23. How will NZ Transport Agency make sure people know about the amendment Rule?

A newsletter outlining the changes to the Driver Licensing Rule will be sent to groups and individuals who registered their interest in the Rule that has been amended. Stakeholders and industry groups likely to be directly affected by specific amendments will receive information on the changes.

The NZ Transport Agency will update any Fact sheets or other information material available on the NZ Transport Agency website to reflect the changes brought about by the amendment Rules.

24. How can I get more information about the amendment Rule?

Call the NZ Transport Agency Contact Centre on 0800 822 422 for more information about the Rule.

Last updated: 14 May 2008