$86.5m package to boost driver licensing

People will be given help to get their driver’s licence under a new Government plan. Times file photo Wayne Martin

The Government has announced it’s making it easier for Kiwis to access driver licensing and training through an $86.5 million investment over four years as part of Budget 2022.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Transport Minister Michael Wood revealed a plan today to increase funding for driver licence support, remove barriers for people who have trouble obtaining a driver’s licence, strengthen testing infrastructure, and review the graduated driver licensing system to ensure it’s “fit for purpose”.

The Government says an estimated 64,000 New Zealanders will benefit from the initiative.

“Having a driver licence is a key requirement for up to 70 per cent of jobs, yet a big portion of our community can’t access training or tests due to the costs and other barriers,” Sepuloni says.

“This disproportionally disadvantages Maori, Pacific peoples, sole parents, and rural communities.

“This investment will provide targeted support for people to progress through the driver licensing system by providing high-quality lessons.

“Having a driver’s licence is also a prerequisite for many jobs so we expect this will help more people into work.”

Wood says the Government knows when it invests in New Zealanders they have greater opportunity to prosper, provide for their families, and contribute to the country’s success.

“This initiative will help reduce debts from fines for not having a driver licence and the related risk of getting a criminal record.

“It will increase the options available for police referrals and help offer more driver training support.

“This investment will allow the Ministry for Social Development and Waka Kotahi to stabilise and expand access to quality driver license support for 64,000 New Zealanders, improving access to testing through initiatives such as partnering with communities and increasing driver testing officer capability and capacity.”

However, National Party Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston and the party’s Transport spokesperson, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, say the announcement is “another broken promise” by the Labour Government.

They say it shows little progress on Labour’s 2017 election promise and fails to address growing driver licence wait times.

“Today’s announcement also fails to address that waiting times to sit licence tests which have blown out in the last five years,” Brown says.

“Labour will continue to use Covid as a scapegoat, even though waiting times to sit a driver licence have increased dramatically in 2019 and have only got worse since then.

“This is simply more spin and will fail to deliver tangible results.”

Upston says: “The Government have been consistently told by officials that not having a driver’s licence is a major factor in locking out young people from employment opportunities.

“Not only have they not provided the universal support they promised in 2017, but this failure has occurred at a time when young people and job seekers have needed support the most.

“In the four years since Labour’s 2017 promise, 60,000 more people have moved onto the Jobseeker benefit.”