Wairoa youth travelling more than 100km to take driving tests because their town doesn't enough variety in road situations, traffic

Wairoa community leaders say their rangatahi are being set up for failure because they can't sit practical driving tests in their town.

The small northern Hawke's Bay town doesn't have traffic lights or double lanes.

Denise Eaglesome-Karekare from the Wairoa Young Achievers Trust believes this lack of infrastructure is why drivers can't sit their restricted or full licence locally. 

"It floors me that they could have just so easily taken away something that was really important," she says.

"How on Earth did they think our kids were going to get licences?"

This has also long been a frustration for Wairoa Mayor Craig Little.

"Their first offence is probably a driving offence because they've got no licence and then it just spirals downhill from there."

Rangatahi wanting to sit a test have to go to either Napier or Gisborne more than 100 kilometres away.

"A lot of our young ones can't afford a car, let alone to travel to Gisborne for the day," Little says.

"A lot of our whānau don't have vehicles that are even warranted to get to Gisborne."

Wairoa. Photo credit: The Hui

Eaglesome-Karekare currently runs a driving program for 16-24-year-olds through the Wairoa Young Achievers Trust.

The trust pays for rangatahi to sit their licence, provide driver education, and then transport them to take their practical tests.

"So we've provided a pathway to help them get that licence and we don't give up."

In the last 12 months, the trust has helped rangatahi earn 63 learner, 48 restricted, and 27 full licences.

However, Eaglesome-Karekare says having practical driving tests in Wairoa will make her job much easier.

"We're saying give us two days, two days of testing in Wairoa will make a huge difference."

A Waka Kotahi spokesperson says Wairoa doesn't offer the variety of road situations or traffic volumes required to meet the restricted driving test conditions introduced in 2012.

"Waka Kotahi is in regular contact with the Wairoa District Council and community leaders," they say.

"This includes the request to reinstate practical driver testing in Wairoa and possible short term training solutions to help novice drivers prepare for tests when they travel out of the region."

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and the Public Interest Journalism Fund.