Kiwis heading to small towns to sit driving tests after COVID-19 causes huge backlog in cities

Hopeful drivers are having to traipse across the country in order to sit the practical test due to wait times reaching two months in some cities.

COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in a backlog of 42,000 driver tests in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga.

George Lill was eager to get his full licence in November but he was told he had to wait.

"If I wanted to sit it in Christchurch, it would be January, mid-January time."

So Lill did the next best thing: he drove to Timaru to sit his test. 

"I got a lesson down there beforehand just to try and get familiar with the roads down there," he said.

The normal wait time is around 30 days, but now it's two months - and Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency is expecting that to continue into the new year. 

Owner of A1 driving school Harald Leeuwenburgh says there seems to be a lot of people coming back from overseas countries who want to get their licence as well.

VTNZ has added 21 extra driving testers in an effort to increase availability, but Leeuwenburgh said students just have to work with the system.

"We tell them to book your test now, and we can work towards it. Set it as your goal."

As for George Lill, the two-hour drive south was well worth it.

"My instructor said to me I was the fourth one that day from Christchurch, and the other three failed."

The NZTA is now urging would-be drivers in this licensing traffic jam just to be patient.