Two-dozen migrants in Mid Canterbury will soon become more independent, thanks to a programme helping those living on rural properties or in small towns to gain a driver's licence.
The Mid Canterbury Rural Driver Licensing Scheme has helped more than 70 people through its course teaching the road code since 2018. Now, thanks to funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), 24 mainly migrant women in the region will also get a helping hand to gain their learner's licence.
MPI announced on Wednesday it would be contributing $20,000 to enable the programme to continue operating in the 2021-22 financial year.
"We were facing the prospect of having to reduce the number of people we help gain licences each year due to reduced funding as a result of COVID-19," says Wendy Hewitt, programme coordinator of the Mid Canterbury Rural Driver Licensing Scheme.
"MPI's support will ensure we can keep operating."
The programme provides transport to class, four driving lessons with a professional teacher and childcare for children of participants during the lessons.
Hewitt said once they have passed their learner's test, participants in the scheme are paired with a volunteer to practise for their restricted licence.
"Not having a driver's licence in a rural or regional area can make it impossible for a person to find work and earn an income," she says.
Nick Story, MPI's director of rural communities and farming support, echoed that sentiment, saying calling an Uber or a taxi in rural areas "isn't an option".
"It can be incredibly difficult living in a rural area without a driver’s licence," he said.
"It can also be more isolating if you’re new to a district. Being unable to travel limits people’s ability to socialise, make friends and integrate into the community."