IT IS amazing what a little pastel-coloured card can do to empower individuals and communities. Whether it is a blue, yellow or a green card, a driver’s licence opens up so many opportunities. Tairawhiti REAP executive director Ani Pahuru-Huriwai knows only too well. She has seen the impact of how it can change people’s lives, especially for those living in rural communities.“A driver’s licence is a basic-level qualification,” she says.
“In many cases you can’t get a job without a full driver’s licence. Or you need your full to be able to sit your heavy vehicle licence so you can get a good job. “Or you can’t leave the country for a job you have lined up, because you have fines from being caught driving without a licence.
“All of these things have a huge impact on whanau with financial stress and mental health. We’ve seen it and if we’re in a position to help our people not go down that track, then we’ll do what we can.”
REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme), in collaboration with the McInnes Driving School, police, Vehicle Testing New Zealand, Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou, Maori wardens and Te Puni Kokiri have been helping people get equipped through the graduated driver licensing programme.
The most recent round had 38 people graduate from the rural areas of Wharekahika (Hicks Bay), Ruatoria and Uawa (Tolaga Bay). Of these graduates, 21 went from learner to restricted and 17 from restricted to full.
Since last year, the TPK-funded programme has turned out 134 graduates from Wairoa and the East Coast.
“It all began in Wairoa. People kept banging on our Wairoa office door inquiring about driver licences. We couldn’t ignore, the demand was so high.
“REAP do a personal development plan with each participant and see what other licences they would like to do further down the track.
“The plan is to try to get them to go from one level to the next.”
When participants were asked why they had not graduated to the next level in licensing, typical responses were:
- fear of failure
- they had failed before
- were too scared to try again
- cost of the licence
- cost of getting to town
- not confident to drive in town
- no legal vehicle.
- “If we can help remove some of these barriers, it will empower our people and may also eliminate or reduce some of those other social issues.”
East Coast participants were transported to Gisborne by REAP to do one or two driving lessons with McInnes Driving School and the following day would sit their test in a vehicle provided. “This proved to be a winning formula, with the added value of sitting their licence with friends and family.
Inter-generational success in one family alone was one of the highlights of the programme. “We had a grandfather come in with his son and grandson, and now their mission is to get more of the whanau licensed. “We had a lot of young mums also, so they could get licensed to help drive their kohanga reo van. “Others wanted to get licensed so they could eventually drive their community rural fire truck, which is vital in those communities. “For some of our graduates, it was the first time they had ever passed a test. So, it not only gave them more independence, it boosted their self-esteem. All of these things have a massive impact on the health and wellbeing of our community.”
However, more funding is needed to keep the programme running, to help people reach the next level as well as push it out to the Gisborne rural areas.
“We have 96 people in Wairoa who achieved their learner licence and now what? We’ve set up an expectation and we can’t do anything about progressing because we haven’t got the funding.
“To do a really good job of it and make a dent in things like licence-related traffic offences, we need more funding for these programmes.
“We continue to seek multi-year funding to enable us to continue providing this much-needed programme in our rural communities.”
REAP is gathering data for the rural areas surrounding Gisborne, so they can put a proposal together to the Government to service these communities.
“If you live in rural Gisborne and you need a licence, we want to hear from you. We need to gather data to show there is a need here so we can continue the programme for our rural communities.”