By Pauline Stewart.
I reflect on a situation that has come to the attention of The Informer. Situations or issues unresolved or not addressed at all, create an abiding mood of frustration and impatience - even disregard, and result sometimes in total disengagement with processes in our society. This relates to a number of current issues. People feel worn down. Some we need to adapt to, others we need to do something about, particularly in the light of “the primary goals for the Thames - Coromandel District Council Draft Recovery Plan are to restore, repair, build back, enhance resilience, and take care of our communities and their wellbeing.’( 6 June 2023 TCDC newsletter) I believe in this statement but words Iike ‘resilience’ and ‘enhance’ and ‘care for’ are being used a lot by central government and our local council and could end up being meaningless catch cries. Expecting accountability is now the role of everyone involved in the recovery journey - working to make those words mean something practical.
There is nowhere except Thames for people to take their practical drivers licence test on the Coromandel Peninsula. Before the broken highways, and slips and more slips, this required quite a commitment in terms of travel now it is an unreasonable task, and nothing has happened to address the situation. SH 25 A was going to be completed in ‘6 months’: then, ‘early in 2024’, and now,’12 to 14 months. Tapu - Coroglen road stayed plan – ‘operating by the end of June’. Now, due to further information on an impending slip, it is ‘6 months away’ or ‘the end of the year.’
As it affects one local business - The situation of the business, Land and Tree Works based in Whenuakite, demonstrates the matter of non-service regarding driver’s licence tests. Peter and Susa Wilson, owners, specialise in the care and treatment of trees of all kinds. They employ mostly young men who learn the skills on the job. There is a lot to learn, and safety is a big part of the skill set. The key aspect is each young man gaining a licence to drive. Susa and Peter have always assisted their young employees in this.
The Tapu - Coroglen Road is a lifeline for their business. It has been the main route to access the properties to serve their clients’ needs. The recent letter from TCDC that a large slip has been detected through geo -tech readings postponing the repairing of the road to December, has seriously affected their operation. With this announcement of deferring repairs on the road, there are no words about additional practical resources or further explanations as to why this particular large slip cannot receive more labour, expertise and machinery so that at least one road is functioning that might save people endless kilometres of travel just to run their business.
Back to the ability to get a driver’s licence.
Having access to the means to get a driver’s licence seems pretty basic. A minimum two-hour journey one way from Whitianga is not reasonable. Then add another twenty minutes for Whenuakite.
The young men required to drive a ute for the work of Land and Tree Works need to have a licensed driver to accompany them to their test in Thames. This means a whole day for one fully licensed driver to accompany the young person who must also get time off work. In the current policy (pre-covid and cyclones and storms), there is no redress for mistakes. We send the person away to make another appointment in three months. What kind of planning and grace does it need to enable smaller mistakes to be corrected and to ask the young applicant to come back later in the day without paying another fee? In the light of knowledge that this person has taken a whole day off work, accompanied by someone who has also taken a day out from work, to apply a no second chance rule with extra fees applying seems brutal and uncaring o top of what is a minimum of almost five hours of driving. Yet we are at the receiving end of well set-out reasons justifying why delays continue and how everything possible is being done to enhance the recovery process, despite every major project being deferred.
Susa Wilson called the TCDC office in Whitianga and enquired about what could be done. She was told to call AA. She was advised by AA that they come once a week to Whitianga, but it is only to renew licences and even then people stand in a line to be seen by the AA representative just to get an appointment which is generally more than a month away. There is no licence testing and nothing in the wings for its provision in Whitianga despite the deferment of the opening of two major access roads. People are pleading for some practical assistance in this basic social aspect of infrastructure - enabling young people to get their licence with a reasonable level of travel, mercy and reduced costs. This would help the abiding mood of a large number of people and also their pockets which in many households are very thin. Rural isolation has taken on a new meaning with what is happening with this one particular social practice.
We are not alone. Other regions are putting up with this. But we need to start with our own back yard. The barriers to getting a driver’s licence are so great that it will force young people to drive around illegally. The broken highways have highlighted a system that is bureaucratically and administratively ridiculous and now made worse.
Caption: Jade, Matt and Tyler of Land and Tree Works.