Friday, 30 October 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Campaign underway to make some driving tests available in Whitianga

Lobbying is underway with the New Zealand Transport Agency to make it possible for restricted driver’s licence tests to be carried out in Whitianga.

Taking the test currently can take applicants up to four hours, with the nearest testing centre located in Thames. Whitianga Social Services manager, Sheryll FitzPatrick, has raised the issue with Waka Kotahi/NZTA, pointing out the eight-week waiting list in Thames and highlighting the burden on families when a young person needs to take their test.

“It means taking a day out of school,” Sheryll pointed out when she addressed the most recent meeting of the Mercury Bay Community Board to seek support. “And for the person travelling with them, it is a day out of work.”

Sheryll noted in particular the Thames-Coromandel District Council Youth Strategy and said this was an example of a clear gap in service provision in the Mercury Bay area. Whitianga Social Services was in a position to provide both the room and the carparking for a testing centre if council and NZTA were to give the go ahead.

Mercury Bay Area School principal, John Wright, backed the campaign adding his support in writing. “It is a significant matter for our more senior students in our kura,” he said. “We have 250 who are in the age bracket to commence their licensing process, having a regular service here would be great.”

As well as noting the impact on students of missing a day’s school, Mr Wright said loss of income for parents needing to skip work, on top of the travel costs to and from Thames, was a concern. “Our kura totally supports this request and will do what we can to support it going forward,” he said.

Based on information received from NZTA outlining the tasks that need to be performed during restricted driver’s licence tests, Sheryll said Whitianga would qualify. “We had testing here until around eight years ago when the criteria changed,” she said. “I have asked NZTA to come and do an audit. One of the major things is that you need to be able to see those taking the test changing lanes and I think we could do this coming up to our roundabouts.”

A Waka Kotahi/NZTA spokesperson confirmed the agency had been in contact with Whitianga Social Services recently “to explain in detail why Whitianga doesn’t have restricted or full licence testing and is still in correspondence with them on their request for a review of Whitianga’s testing suitability.”

“As the new, more challenging restricted driver licence test introduced in February 2012 requires more complex driving scenarios, new test routes were developed,” the spokesperson said. “The strengthening of the class one practical driving tests included the addition of assessable driving tasks based on the most significant crash risks taken from the analysis of several years’ worth of crash data of young and novice drivers.

“This means testing is not able to be held in some centres, like Whitianga, that do not offer the necessary variety of road situations or levels of traffic required by the new restricted test.”

Chairperson of the Mercury Bay Community Board, Rekha Giri Percival, said the board would be willing to provide a letter of support once TCDC staff had done some work to see if Whitianga could meet the criteria.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.