Two driver licensing programmes are helping hundreds of people in Police's Central District get their drivers licence, opening new opportunities for them.
The Te Ara Tika learner licence education programme and Te Ara Māhorahora graduated licence programme have seen 400 people from across Central pass licensing tests since 2016.
Individuals can be referred through streams including Police, through partner organisations, whānau self-referrals and through the courts.
In the Manawatū Area, local police and Te Tihi o Ruahine Whānau Ora Alliance run the initiatives.
Te Tihi Programme Coordinator Shay Brandt, District Iwi Liaison Coordinator Sergeant Nick Lawton, the Impairment Prevention Team (IPT) and a cohort of community mentors ensure participants are supported and encouraged every step of the way.
“For minor traffic offences we need to look at alternative outcomes rather than people unnecessarily being put through the justice system – we need to be innovative and that’s why these programmes are a great fit,” says Nick.
“For many whānau, this is their first positive interaction with Police. Therefore the trust and confidence is invaluable.
“We’ve even had people hear about the programmes and come into the station and ask for help, which I think is a testament to the programmes’ success.”
He acknowledges the work of District Māori Responsiveness Manager Inspector Cliff Brown and Shay, who were integral in getting the programmes established.
The programmes form part of Central District’s Strategic Plan – Whakamana Hapori Māori. They are a culmination of work through the strategies Te Huringa o Te Tai, Safer Journeys and Prevention First.
“We give participants the tools and support to get there but it’s their determination which gets them their licence,” says Nick.
“We’ve had tears, laughter, hugs – the full range of emotions at the end of the theory tests, which is really heartening. It’s a privilege to be involved in these programmes and see the impact they have.”
Shay delivers the programme alongside Police and supports whānau.
“We do everything from their learner’s license, with lots of support and help from Nick who is the champion trainer, right up to their full,” says Shay.
This includes coordinating financial support, driving assessments with an endorsed driving instructor, mentoring sessions from our volunteers “which help our whānau break bad habits”, test bookings, and motivational support throughout the process.
“It’s all about getting our whānau legal and, for some, keeping them out of the justice system,” says Shay.
“If I can get through to them on the phone and explain how we work, we have 100 percent buy-in and they are so grateful for the support. They see Police in a new light.
“I make a joke and tell them I will leave them alone once they are on their full licence. So if they want to get rid of me, they know what they need to do.
“Every day we have examples of how valuable this program is to our community and my only wish is that we could offer it to more people.”
Among Te Ara Tika participants is Palmerston North mother-of-nine Maren Preston, who aced the learner’s test and has enrolled to go further with Te Ara Māhorahora.
“My kids had been encouraging me to get my licence,” says Maren.
“During the programme I spent one-on-one time with Police staff and Shay who really encouraged me and supported me through the whole process.
“My kids were really excited when I told them I had passed and I felt a real sense of achievement.”
Maren encourages people with issues getting their licence to take the available help.
“Don’t be afraid and be sure to study,” she says. “The Police staff really want to help you – they want to see you succeed and pass your test. At the same time, I didn’t want to let them down.
“I just went for it and now I have my licence.”