Community trials in Tairāwhiti (Gisborne) and the Far North


Te Tairāwhiti driver licensing trial

We’re partnering with Tairāwhiti REAP to trial new ways of making access to driver testing for restricted and full licences faster and easier. This improved access is having a big impact for the students involved in the trial.

  • Nicole Bull's story

    Moving from anxiety to confidence

    Nicole Bull remembers feeling a wave of anxiety every time she drove past the Police.

    She was worried they’d pull her over and discover she was driving on her learner licence, maybe with her children in the car, maybe after hours.

    Nicole (37) works in the admin team at Gisborne hospital’s radiology department, and lives an hour out of Gisborne with her husband and children on a sheep and beef farm near Matawai.

    But she previously spent some years as a sole parent to her three children (now 19, 11 and 10), sometimes working two jobs, and with an unstable housing situation.

    “The house we were living in was sold in 2018. There weren’t any houses available and I ended up having to stay with a friend for three months in her garage during winter. The kids were in a sleepout. It was horrible.”

    “At that time I didn’t see getting my restricted licence as a necessity. I had so many bills to pay to keep us afloat. There were just other things we needed more at the time.”

    “A friend of a friend told me about a tiny empty cottage on a farm outside Gisborne. We applied for it, got it, and moved in. That’s how I met my husband, Sam. He managed the farm the cottage was on.

    It was Sam who pushed her to get her restricted driver licence.

    “He was on my case daily,” says Nicole.

    As luck would have it, her colleague at work knew about the Tairāwhiti REAP driver licence course for rural communities. Nicole rang them, and before she knew it had driving lessons arranged, and then a restricted driving test.

    “I spoke to Helen at the REAP. She was awesome - no judgement. Which is important because I felt embarrassed being my age and still on this licence. I felt embarrassed about the hard times we’d gone through. But she had open arms.”

    “I couldn’t believe the whole REAP driver licensing programme was free. I know a lot of people out there who haven’t gone and got their licence, cause especially for young families they simply can’t afford it.” 

    Nicole passed her restricted test in April this year - on her first go. She says her driving lessons were really important.

    “They taught me things like tricks for parallel parking and how to use the mirrors properly.” 

    Nicole is keen to sit her full licence next.

    “The REAP team work with each person individually, and the driving instructors help you feel at ease. What an amazing thing they do - especially for rural communities.”

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  • Vincent Haworth's story

    Endurance pays dividends for solo dad of six

    vincent holding a driving certificateVincent Haworth has been through swings and roundabouts over the last three years to get his full driver licence.

    Vincent lives in Whatatutu in rural Tairāwhiti sole parenting his six children, who range in age from 5 to 18 years old.

    The 49-year-old says he drove on his learner licence for 20 years.

    “Every time I had the time, I didn’t have the money and vice versa.”

    In 2020, Vincent read about a driver licensing programme with his local Tairāwhiti Rural Education Activities Programme or REAP which provided support for those needing to gain a licence.

    It was the beginning of a fruitful and long-running relationship.

    “I did some theory and practice tests with the REAP and flew through my restricted with flying colours first time,” says Vincent.

    Tairāwhiti REAP quickly set a date for Vincent to sit his full licence test, but then Covid hit, ending any chance of moving to the next licensing stage.

    Tairāwhiti REAP wasn’t deterred.

    Vincent remembers, “Helen from the REAP just said, I’ll keep in contact with you.”

    And she did – over the next year and a half.

    A week out from Christmas 2021, Vincent’s rental home was sold. With housing waiting lists in Gisborne stretching out to five years, Vincent and family moved in with family in Kawerau, Bay of Plenty – three hours away from Gisborne. They ended up spending over three months there.

    Returning to Whatatutu, 40 minutes from Gisborne, and a new home, Vincent was ready to sit his full licence.

    But the death of three loved ones within four months, and then the devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle conspired against him.

    vincent with his three childrenFinally, in March 2023, the stars aligned, and Vincent sat his full licence. He passed first time.

    He says getting his licence is ‘a big weight off my shoulders’.

    It means he can meet the insurance requirement for the family van he’s paying off. He’s able to drive his children to their sports practice. Down the track, he knows he will be able to apply for the estimated 70% of jobs requiring a driver licence. And he’s free from the worry of being pulled over or fined.

    It’s been a three-year journey, and Vincent says he can’t thank the REAP – especially Helen – enough. “They’ve been awesome in motivating me,” he says. “Without them, getting my licence would have been the last thing on my mind because it was more about making sure my babies were okay.”

    He’s helping his family follow his example. His daughter-in-law passed her restricted licence through the REAP programme in March and Vincent is keen for his older sons, both working in Tairāwhiti, to get their full licence next.

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  • Brody Lewis' story

    Igniting the potential within

    photo of brody19-year-old Brody Lewis has aspired to be a Police Officer since he was a teenager.

    From Otoko, a small rural settlement north-west of Gisborne, Brody has been working as an authorised officer with Gisborne Police for seven months. In March 2024 he will attend Police College for 16 weeks training to become a sworn constable.

    Brody says getting his full driver licence through Tairāwhiti REAP in late 2022 was critical in kick-starting his career with NZ Police.

    “I’d been on my learners for almost two years because in rural communities people aren’t always bothered about getting their full licence,” Brody explains.

    “Mum saw a Facebook post about help from the REAP to get a licence for lower income communities.”

    Brody went to his first session in Tologa Bay where students were assessed on their driving skills and attended lessons over the following months. He passed his restricted with flying colours the second time around. “I was a bit fast on the roundabouts the first time,” he admits.

    He gained his full licence in late 2022.

    “Getting my full was even better because it allowed me to work at the Police station. Sometimes I’m required to drive passengers around or use the big Police trucks to take people to prison.”

    Brody says he’s always admired the Police for their work in the community and is enjoying being one of them.  

    “I like the fact that, even just as one person, I’m getting to make a difference with people. There are young people constantly coming in and I can help them think about different avenues instead of going through the courts.”  

    Brody highly recommends the Tairāwhiti driver licensing course, which is targeted at rural communities.

    “People of any age up the coast or from rural communities, who have had a non-privileged sort of life, I tell them to go through the REAP programme so you can break the cycle of driving illegally. You’ll get work opportunities and you’ll be able to provide for your family.”

    Brody’s younger brother has recently gained his restricted licence through Tairāwhiti REAP, and can now drive himself to work at the Warehouse in Gisborne, some 50 kilometres away.

    “He absolutely loves it! He’s going for his full as well so that I don’t have to drive him home after late shifts,” says Brody.

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  • Jason Robin's story

    Aroha leads to a restricted licence and a change of direction

    Jason Robin is enormously proud of getting his restricted driver licence in May 2023. It signals an important milestone on the road to changing his life. 

    Now 33, Jason was a member of Black Power in Tairāwhiti, and has spent time in jail. He last got out in 2021.

    He’s had a learner licence since he was 15 and renewed it again and again over the years.

    In 2022, Jason got a job in Gisborne harvesting corn maize. He was living rurally and driving 40 minutes to get to work. One day he was pulled up by the Police going to the shop at breaktime.

    “Instead of a fine, the Police gave me a chance,” he says. “They told me to get my licence sorted.”

    He knew about Tairāwhiti REAP and its free driver licensing programme but had never taken it seriously before. This time, he signed up.

    “I was motivated by my baby,” he says. His then two-year old daughter came with him to REAP classes. “They looked after my baby while I was busy learning.”

    “I never believed I would get my restricted licence,” Jason remembers. “I doubted myself.”

    But with the awhi from dedicated REAP staff, Jason got his restricted licence.

    “It was a big deal – quite overwhelming,” he says. “My family is buzzing too.”

    “I was pulled up at a checkpoint soon afterwards. The Police asked what licence I was on. I could tell them I was on my restricted! I felt so good.”

    Life is changing for Jason. He has recently moved from a casual job to a permanent one after keeping his Pioneer Genetic Technology supervisor informed on his licence progress.

    “I told my boss about going for lessons and the test. They were impressed that I got my restricted.”

    “I get judged by the cover of the book with my tattoos, but I needed to make changes cos of my little girl and my baby on the way. I needed to get legal and move away from gang life.”

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Far North driver licensing trial

We’re partnering with Far North REAP to trial new ways of making access to driver testing for restricted and full licences faster and easier. This improved access is having a big impact for the students involved in the trial.