National | Drive

Govt to fund free licence scheme for youth on benefits

The government has announced it will pay for the driver's licence costs for young people on benefits or in care.  The prime minister expects 2,500 young people will obtain a restricted licence through the scheme, which she hopes will then move them into jobs.

Twenty-one-year-old Hineora Mike now has a full driver's licence and a new scheme by government is looking to help other youth to do the same.

"It's a great opportunity for our rangatahi because even though they might not have any children, they have other responsibilities such as going to school, going to work and it's just the stress of not having a licence and worrying about being pulled over."

Last year 1,509 people aged 25 and under were convicted of driving without a licence, nearly 60 percent were Māori and 16 percent were Pasifika.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, “A number of our young people, their first conviction is for not having a driver's licence, once you have that conviction it does make it harder in terms of your work prospects, once your work prospects are harder that spirals into a number of other issues."

The scheme will cover up to 20 professional driving lessons, a birth certificate if required, and learner's and restricted licence fees for individuals.

NZTA has contributed $5mil and the Ministry of Social Development has invested $250,000 into the scheme.

The prime minister reflected on her own learn-to-drive experience.

"I grew up on a small orchard.  The first thing I ever drove was a Massey Fergusson Tractor which on one occasion I promptly drove into a nashi tree, and into another nashi tree and then into my dad," she says.

Now Mike has a learn-to-drive experience of her own to share.

"I was also a teen parent so with my son it was hard getting around, getting the necessities for him.  I was able to get my licence through them and be able to have that independence."

The scheme begins June 1.