Revealed: NZTA endorsed careless driving convicts as instructors

Thirteen applicants who wanted to teach young people to drive amassed a grand total of 169 convictions - some as serious as aggravated robbery and peeping and peering.

But they were still endorsed by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

The Automobile Association (AA) says it's surprised by the revelations, and would not allow anyone with such a serious criminal past to work there.

Mark Revill-Johnson is a veteran driving instructor with 21 years of experience. He's also worked for the police.

He says those applying to be trainers with convictions like peeping and peering, burglary or fraud would raise red flags with him.

"It's invasion of privacy, it's an invasion of a person's private space - and in the small confines of a car, that type of behaviour would concern me."

Documents obtained by Newshub show that in the past two years, the NZTA gave 13 applicants  endorsements or approval to train people to drive even though they had convictions including:

  • Aggravated robbery
  • Assaulting police
  • Careless driving causing death or injury
  • Drink driving
  • Burglary
  • Peeping and peering
  • Threatening to kill
  • Fraud

In total, 13 applicants shared 169 convictions. More than 40 related to fraud, yet they all passed a 'fit and proper person' test.

The AA's Roger Venn called the revelations "confronting".

"Very confronting when you see the severity of some of the offences, and for someone to pass a fit and proper check with some of those offences is surprising."

NZTA says none of the 13 has reoffended since getting approval. It also points out that while some of the 13 had multiple convictions, some of the offending was more than 20 years ago. Other convictions were as recent as 2015.

But Venn says given the nature of some convictions, he wouldn't care when the offending occurred - he wouldn't hire someone who'd been convicted of careless driving causing death or injury.

"Some of the convictions that we have seen are extremely serious, and certainly from our own point of view, from the AA's driving school's point of view, would preclude them from joining our network."

The rules are specific for a person wanting to be a taxi driver. You can't be one if convicted of a serious violent crime like robbery or rape.

There are no such rules for the driver training endorsement.

"But they are doing a review of how they do this work and whether or not the law is fit for purpose," Transport Minister Phil Twyford said. "And if we decide the rules need tightening up or changing, then we'll look at that."

The AA says the fit and proper person rules are "unclear" - and while they're satisfied their instructors are all above board, they'd welcome a law change.