Marae programme gets 1000 unlicensed drivers legal

50 South Auckland whānau signed up for the Manukau Urban Māori Authority driver licence programme. Photo / MUMA

By Joseph Los'e, NZME

A marae-based driver licensing programme is setting whānau on a road to a bright future and new lifelong goals.

The Manukau Urban Manukau Authority (MUMA) in South Auckland manages a free driver licensing programme - funded by the Ministry of Social Development - from the Nga Whare Waatea Marae in Mangere.

The success of the programme is evident in the testimonials from people who have not only completed the programme but who have now used that licence to find work.

The programme is turning the tide on appalling justice statistics where young unlicensed, mainly Māori, drivers go on to be trapped in the justice system.

They don’t have a licence, get stopped, can’t pay the fines and ultimately face jail.

MUMA chief executive Tania Rangiheuea said the driver licensing programme is cutting that police and court conveyor belt off at the pass.

“It’s not just a driver’s licence but a passport to life,” Rangiheuea told the Herald.

“It is just so pleasing to see the look on our people’s faces when they get their learners, restricted or full licenses.

“We have young people going for their learners to elders. We had a 78-year-old brought by her daughter.

“She had no confidence and English was not her first language.”

Rangiheuea said the woman’s daughter - a school teacher - supported her mum for the three days of classwork at the marae.

On her first mock test, the mum scored 15 out of 50. The second test she scored 24 out of 50.

“On the third day, she scored 50 out of 50,” Rangiheuea said. “When VTNZ came in and she did her test she got 100 per cent.

“As she was Tongan, she needed support services so our programme has developed support programmes for Tongans, Samoans and other island languages - including Māori.

“Having VTNZ come into our environment was also great for the whānau taking the tests as they felt safe.”

Last year, MUMA was given a MSD-funded contract to help 240 participants obtain a learner’s, restricted or a full driver’s licence.

“We completed that by early November and were given a variation to our contract to the end of February for another 160 extra participants,” Rangiheuea said.

“We help everyone and anyone in the community gain a driver’s Licence. This week on the 17th of April we had our biggest intake of almost 50 participants of all ages and ethnic come through our doors to gain a full driver’s Licence.”

They have supported over 1000 people to date.

An example of the changes this programme has made can be seen in the many testimonials.

“Kia Ora, my name is Aku Kingi. I was given the opportunity to participate in the licensing program run by MUMA driving school. I was able to attend their learner’s course and was successful in obtaining a learner’s licence. Then 6 months later was able to successfully pass my restricted through them as well,” Aku wrote.

“I have recently been through their full licence course and have been booked in to sit my full licence test. This driver’s licence program has given myself and my family greater opportunities in the work force also in pay rates with employment,” Kingi wrote.

Kehaia Andrews, who got a restricted licence said: “I sat on a learner’s licence for over 10 years. I lacked the confidence to progress forward and I had avoided certain areas for police when driving. The support from MUMA driving school has not only given me the confidence to drive further and better but also safer.

“The team helped change my perspective of road user responsibilities. I am very appreciative of MUMA driving school for supporting me to progress further to restricted licence. I will be going back to them to do my full licence”.

Angelus Luitogo said having the free programme was a bonus and took away a financial barrier many whānau face.

“I am very thankful for courses like this who help provide for those who are in need of getting their learner licence. Especially with it being free, not many of us have money to pay for things like this. In the three-day course the instructor Andrew had taught us quick and easy ways to learn the road code,” Luitogo said.

“If it wasn’t for this course I wouldn’t have been confident in doing my learners at all, I strongly recommend those who are looking to do their learners for free and who need this to take the next step of getting their restricted.”

Chou-Lee Hamilton is a prime example of never giving up.

“Sitting this course was a blessing. I failed 8 times because I didn’t fully understand the road rules. If it wasn’t for the course I wouldn’t have my full licence. Now that I know more about the road rules, I am more confident to drive my family around knowing I am a full licence driver and also a safer driver,” Hamilton wrote.

And lastly, proud father of two Koro Nonomalo, said he had all but given up on ever driving legally.

“At the beginning of my journey I felt like all hope was lost in getting my restricted licence, until I heard about MUMA driving school,” he wrote.

“After failing my restricted licence 6 times in Hamilton. I surely thought I would never get my restricted licence, let alone in a big city like Auckland. That was until I joined the program. I was able to learn, practise and strive for my goals again. I am a fulltime Dad to my two sons, and they rely on me to be able to get them from A to B. whether this be to daycare, doctors or even just down the supermarket to get a kai. You would never know the impact you have had on me and my whānau. I AM A PROUD DAD breaking generational curses – driving my kids legally.”