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Improving the driver licensing system

A driver licence has been called ‘the key to the door of life’s opportunities’ but some New Zealanders are missing out because of barriers in the driver licensing system.  

Not having a driver licence can affect people’s access to employment, training, community activities, and health services for themselves and their families.

We’ve set up the Driver Licensing Improvement Programme to reduce these barriers and make getting a driver licence more accessible for people across Aotearoa New Zealand, no matter where they live. 

Better access to driver licensing will improve employment opportunities and community participation, and result in more drivers trained to drive safely. 

Who’s involved

The Driver Licensing Improvement Programme is a collaboration led by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency working closely with:

  • the Ministry of Social Development
  • Te Manatū Waka - Ministry of Transport
  • NZ Police
  • Te Puni Kōkiri 
  • Accident Compensation Corporation

The programme also has support from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education and the Driving Change Network.

Driving Change Network (external link)

What’s been done

We're having a kōrero with people across Aotearoa involved in driver licensing about the barriers people in their communities face, how we can reduce those barriers, and the ideas they have for a more equitable and accessible driver licensing system.

From this feedback we’ve identified some changes we can make quickly to improve driver licensing and other changes that’ll take more time to develop and put in place.

Improvements already happening

We’ve already started on the improvements we can make quickly. We’re providing more driver testing officers, adding more driver test routes – practical testing sites, and developing greater regional support. We’ve also partnered on community trials in Tairāwhiti and Te Tai Tokerau/Northland.

More driver testing officers

We’re working to reduce wait times for practical driving tests by training more driver testing officers.   

  • In October 2022, driver testing officers, employed by local community driver licensing support organisations, were trained. These roles are called Community Driver Testing Officers or CDTOs. They’ll test people being supported in their driver licence pathway by community groups for class 1 licences. 
  • The first training progammes for these testing officers were held in Kerikeri and Napier over October/November, with more CDTOs to be trained in 2023. 

More driver test routes

We’re making it easier for you to sit your practical driving test at a place near you. Additional testing routes are being added across Aotearoa, particularly in smaller and more remote centres.

  • Matamata, Upper Hutt, Kaikohe, Dargaville, Wairoa and Waipukurau, went live in the second half of 2022. 
  • More test routes will be added over 2023.

Better regional support

We’re introducing new Regional Advisors who’ll be based in communities where there’s a need to build capability. These advisors will work with community providers to help them deliver driver licence services to suit their community’s needs.

Four ‘Train the Trainer’ roles are being introduced. These trainers will work alongside community providers and create training courses to develop quality local driver training programmes.

Community initiatives in Tairāwhiti and Te Tai Tokerau/Northland

We’re also partnering with Far North REAP (Rural Education Activities Programme) and Tairāwhiti REAP to trial new ways of making access to driver testing for restricted and full licences faster and easier.  

  • In Te Tai Tokerau/Northland, Far North REAP is working with local police officers qualified as driver testing officers to offer practical driver testing for REAP students. REAP and the police officers have worked closely together to understand local needs.
  • The Tairāwhiti REAP team has been supporting students to sit driver licence tests, including picking up groups in rural communities like Hicks Bay for the long drive to the practical driving test in Gisborne.

What we learn from these community trials will help us develop a more effective driver licensing system.

The impact of these community initiatives on the lives of people in both Tairāwhiti and Te Tai Tokerau is evident in these videos:

Te Tairāwhiti driver licensing trial

Te Tai Tokerau driver licensing trial

Funding from Budget 2022

In Budget 2022, Government committed to spending $86.5 million over four years to help improve access to driver licensing for people with the most barriers to success.  The Waka Kotahi funding from Budget 2022 bid is focused on establishing new roles to assist with the stabilisation and expansion of access to support and testing infrastructure.

Programme newsletter

Our newsletter Improving Driver Licensing gives updates on how the work toward better access to driver licensing is progressing.

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 29 March 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 1 February 2023(external link)

Improving Driver Licensing – Programme Update 7 December 2022(external link)

Subscribe to the DLIP newsletter(external link)