31 Oct 2021

Wairoa takes new approach to unlicensed drivers

4:34 pm on 31 October 2021

Wairoa community leaders say they've come up with a temporary solution to help solve its lack of driver licence testing.

Wairoa Police Senior Sergeant Maui Aben

Wairoa Police Senior Sergeant Maui Aben Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

The isolated Hawke's Bay district does not have restricted or full driver licence tests, and this is impacting the lives of rangatahi in particular.

Getting caught by police with no licence would give youth their first "brush with the law".

But police and community agencies say they are working together to give rangatahi another chance.

In the last couple of months, Wairoa Police has been working with Wairoa Young Achievers Trust to make it easier for people to get a licence.

"We are stopping drivers and checking that they've got driver licences, those that don't will be given an infringement notice, but the flipside of that infringement notice is that we actually refer the individuals to the organisations like Wairoa Young Achievers Trust," Senior Sergeant Maui Aben of the Wairoa Police said.

Officers referred people using a police app called AWHI, and the fine would be wiped if they got their licence.

The app gives police the ability to make on the spot referrals to social services for people in need.

"It's a great incentive, I'd rather spend money on a driver's licence than having to pay and infringement fee," Aben said.

"Having a driver's licence enables people to get employment, to move around and affords a level of freedom."

Wairoa Young Achievers Trust youth services manager Denise Eaglesome-Karekare said they had so far received four referrals from the system.

"It is a positive step forward, it's positive for the rangatahi, it's positive for the police and you know what, I honestly do believe the police aren't trying to book 'em up and charge them and whatever - they want to actually help, and so we're more willing to support in that area because we can."

She said her staff would help those who needed it get to Napier or Gisborne to get a test.

She it was still a barrier to have no licence testing.

"But we've worked with it, because we've got no other choice - it is what it is."

Wairoa Young Achievers Trust youth services manager Denise Eaglesome-Karekare.

Wairoa Young Achievers Trust youth services manager Denise Eaglesome-Karekare. Photo: RNZ/Tom Kitchin

A Waka Kotahi spokesperson said representatives met with Wairoa mayor Craig Little and its deputy mayor Hine Flood last year, to discuss the town's lack of driver testing.

"This conversation focussed on solutions to using Wairoa roads to support driver training so that when candidates travelled outside the region (e.g. Napier) to do their driving test they were prepared for what the restricted licence test expects.

"The conversation also focussed on what types of changes to the road network design could be made by Council, such as right-turn intersections and roundabouts to enable a better driver training experience. Throughout the last 12 months Waka Kotahi has continued to engage with the Wairoa community at large and Deputy Mayor Hine Flood further on this issue.

"Wairoa still does not offer the necessary variety of road situations required by the restricted test, so Waka Kotahi has not given further consideration to practical testing in Wairoa at this time."

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