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Youth Drivers Licensing: South Waikato Report, July 2020

Nationwide New Zealand has problems with its uptake and completion of driver licensing, particularly among youth. Unlicensed drivers receive convictions and fines which can be a catalyst for further convictions. In economic terms, a license is a key employability skill with 70% of jobs requiring at least a restricted drivers licence. Driver licensing rates among job seekers is very low nationally and affects a young person’s job prospects. In New Zealand only 9% of jobseekers in the youth category (18-24 years old) have a full license and only 15% have a restricted licence.

The Graduated Drivers Licence system is problematic as the license fees and training are expensive, testing can be difficult and the majority of students cannot achieve a full licence before leaving school. The licencing process takes a minimum of 18 months to 2 years from a person’s 16th birthday if they start immediately.

70,000 to 90,000 young people across New Zealand face major barriers while progressing towards their full licence. These barriers which are commonly referred to as the 4 Cs:
• Confidence
• Car Access
• Capability
• Cash

The most notable and successful programmes across New Zealand have (or have a combination of) a number of common features. These include:
• The Provision of a Car – removing 3 of the 4 Cs in terms of barriers (provides Car access to build Confidence and Capability)
• A co-ordinator in place to run the programme with a strong pastoral element contained in the role
• Access to students during schools hours for driver training
• Consistent funding over a number of years
• Fully funded or partially funded licences

South Waikato

A survey of students at one South Waikato secondary school in June 2020 found that two-thirds of  Year 12 students (approx. 16 years old) had no licence at all (i.e. not even a learners licence). In Year 13 about one-quarter of 17 year olds had their restricted licence, 50% only their learners and a quarter still had no licence at all.  

In total, across four South Waikato secondary schools, there are 786 students in the 16-18 year old category, with approximately 262 leavers potentially entering the workforce (see appendix 3.1 for this data). Furthermore, one- third (86) are likely to enter the Ministry of Social Development system as Job Seekers.  The school age populations in South Waikato are increasing, and so the demand for driver licensing will increase too.

The total cost to license each South Waikato school leaver at each stage of the Graduated Drivers Licensing programme is set out in the table below:

Cost per person
Yearly costs currently
(262 school leavers)
Projected yearly costs
(360 school leavers)






$  93.90


$  33,804.00




$  48,528.00




$  39,420.00

Driving lessons (5)




Defensive Driving



$  82,800.00










There are a number of driving initiatives operating in South Waikato however currently, neither individually nor collectively, they are operating at a level to ensure comprehensive driver licensing success for all rangatahi.  It is crucial that these groups and stakeholders, including iwi, must come together with a Terms of Reference and independent Governance to enable them to collaborate on a combined application for substantial, sustainable long term driver licensing funding.  This will enable local rangatahi to drive legally and safely and be ready for employment opportunities as they arise.

Smart Waikato acknowledges the support of:

PGF positive 2018 fullTrust Waikato new