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Rural driver-licensing programme struggles for funding

A PROGRAMME that has helped drivers from more than 100 rural families become licensed over the past year will be axed unless it receives funding.

Tairawhiti REAP’s graduated driver licensing programme recently had a gradution for its latest intake but it is uncertain if another intake will go ahead.

REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) executive director Ani Pahuru-Huriwai said it had the only driver licensing programme in the district that serviced rural areas, where the need was “massive”.

“This programme has had a life-changing impact on participants, their families and communities.

“We’ve seen the transformations that people have made by simply getting their licence.

“Some people are now able to get a job, and we know that employment is more of a challenge in the rural areas.

“We want to continue to assist so they can become more employable.

“We will be extremely disappointed if we can't get more funding.”

Mrs Pahuru-Huriwai said multi-year funding was needed to ensure an overall success rate, but rural communities often missed out on this type of funding.

“The difficulty seems to be that there are lots of providers in Gisborne.

“However, REAP is the only provider that covers the whole region including Wairoa, the only one that looks after

our rural whanau.

“It is frustrating to have to source funding every six months because this type of programme needs to be continual.

“Once we get someone through their restricted licence, we hit a block because we have to wait to see if we will get funding to help them move on to the next stage.”

The graduated licensing programme is a collaborative project between REAP, local businesses and services.

REAP works as a support mechanism for participants by breaking down some of the barriers that usually prevent them from sitting their licence.

“We provide free transportation from the rural areas to Gisborne for driving lessons, and the test.

“They don’t pay for the test or for a resit if they need it.

Participants are ready“McInnes Driver Training carries out the lessons. They do a great job in ensuring that participants are ready and confident before sitting the test.

“The programme also provides a legal vehicle for them to sit the test.

“The police provide road safety lessons and the Vehicle Testing New Zealand station in Gisborne has been very supportive when we book in our participants.”

Since the programme began in July last year, it has had a 100 percent pass rate, with 178 people gaining licences — 100 learners, 44 restricted and 34 full.

These participants were from the Uawa, Ruatoria, Tikitiki, Rangitukia, Matakaoa and Wairoa areas.

“The results speak for themselves, as well as the positive feedback from the participants and their communities,” said Mrs Pahuru-Huriwai.

The programme’s success had created an expectation and the demand for the service has grown.

“We have only just scratched the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

“There are around 50 people on the waiting list for East Coast, and about the same — if not more — for Wairoa.

“We haven’t even managed to get to rural Gisborne yet, in areas such as Muriwai, Manutuke, Patutahi, Waituhi, Te Karaka, Waihirere and Whangara.

“We are receiving phone calls every day from people around the district, asking to be part of the next intake.”

Important in rural areasTe Araroa sole charge constable James Garbett said driver licences in rural areas like the East Coast were important.

“The number of people who drive up the Coast without a licence, or drive on their learner licence, is unbelieveable.

“That’s largely because of financial reasons — the cost of the test, petrol to get to Gisborne to sit the test, and getting their vehicle legal.

“Then there is a fear of failing the test and not being able to afford to resit.”

Const Garbett has seen the benefits of the programme and is saddened to hear that it could be dropped.

“It will be really sad for the rural areas if it goes.

“Here on the Coast, the programme offered the whole community the chance to progress, and gave them the confidence to know they can do it.

“I’ve seen people go from unemployed to employed.

“What was wonderful about this programme was that people did not sit their test until the instructor felt they were ready.

“It was a win-win for everyone. It’s a no-brainer to keep it going.”

One of the recent graduates of the Matakaoa programme, Juanita Holloway, said getting her restricted licence has given her the motivation to move on to the next steps.

“If it had not been for this programme, I would probably still be on my learner’s.

“Now I have my restricted, I’ve done a defensive driving course and I will be sitting my full licence in January.

“I also want to go for my heavy vehicle licence.

“I encouraged my whanau to sign up so they, too, could go for their full and heavy vehicle licences.

“That’s what will lead them to jobs, especially here on the Coast.”

Delivery of the programme was supportive of whanau and helped to raise self-esteem, she said.

“The driving lessons were awesome. Being a rural driver, they gave me the confidence to drive in town.

“The REAP team were very encouraging.

“They wouldn’t let you fail. It will be a shame if they can no longer continue the programme.”

LICENCES FOR RURAL DRIVERS: The Tairawhiti REAP Graduated Driver Licensing programme has helped 178 rural people get their license in the past year. Graduates from the last intake celebrated their success recently. Pictured from left, McInnes Driver Training instructor Jo Leeper, REAP’s Michelle Middleton, Horiana Walker-Reedy, Janine Whangapirita, Leon Heripo, tutor Sara Hallgarth, Kau Te Awhitu, Ruakirikiri Te Kani, Juanita Holloway, Whaiora Haenga, Kyle Sucich, Reremoana Jade Hohepa, Rea Tamati, Colin Simpson of McInnes Driver Training, Julieann Van Der Lem, Ruth Baker-Ben and REAP executive director Ani Pahuru-Huriwai. Picture by Liam Clayton