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Initiative driving positive change

The Community Driver Mentor Programme [CDMP] that’s run by the Wairarapa Road Safety Council [WRSC] continues to gain momentum, having clocked up almost 400 successfully passed tests.

The programme was started in 2016 after WRSC manager Bruce Pauling was approached by then-Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson after she’d attended the Mayor’s Taskforce for Jobs.

It was at this time that Auckland University published research that showed the majority of youth offenders’ journey to incarceration started with being fined for driving while unlicensed and suggested that about 70 per cent of employers required new employees to have at least their restricted licence.

Pauling said Wairarapa’s community jumped at the chance to help the programme take off, with the first vehicle being loaned by Southey Honda and the Shell station on Chapel St [now Z] providing free petrol for a year.

“Waka Kotahi have supported us, as have the three councils; we really appreciate their support,” Pauling said.

To date, CDMP has helped people achieve passes in 352 restricted or full driving tests, with 87 passes in 2023.

Drivers are paired up with mentor drivers who have undergone an induction workshop, and receive driving lessons in one of the specially marked CDMP vehicles.

Pauling said the aim of the programme is to help people get their licences and also be safe drivers.

Over 60 per cent of people who have passed through CDMP have gone on to gain employment, something that having a licence allowed them to do.

“It’s about being road-ready, and it’s about being employment-ready ready too,” he said.

CDMP supports five Wairarapa colleges, Puawānanga, immigrants and refugees, and the Pasifika community, and the programme also receives Police and community referrals.

“The programme was targeted at certain cohorts in the community that face challenges and barriers, whether it was financial, whether it was that the whānau didn’t have a car, or a legally licenced driver to teach them to drive safely and properly,” he said.

One student of the programme, Emily Kennedy, said that having her licence has been a big help in her day-to-day life.

“I live with my nan and I am now able to run errands for her, and drive myself to [work] … This means I have been able to help Nan out and contribute to our household costs,” she said.

New Zealand Police Sergeant Roger Newton has been involved with CDMP for several years in his role as supported resolutions coordinator.

He saw the programme as a way for police staff to not only help school-aged kids develop safe driving skills, but to also to prevent them from entering the justice system because of driving offences by helping them to get their licences.

“Driving without a licence leads to charges in court, the car getting impounded, and then hardship at home because you’re without money because of the fines [and other associated costs],” Newton said.

Another benefit of police involvement in the programme is the ability to break down barriers, build relationships, and engage with school kids.

Newton said it is about “doing something positive rather than pulling them over, giving them a fine and sending them to court; [it’s] doing something that’s genuinely going to work”.

CDMP only continues to grow, with 53 driving mentors having been trained since the programme’s inception.

Pauling said the big plans for next year include a recruitment drive for mentors.

“If you’ve got a spare hour, it’s only an hour a week, and after a small induction training workshop, you get paired up with a college student,” he said.

“My mentors tell me it’s the most fulfilling, rewarding task they’ve ever done.”

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