Part of New Zealand First’s commitment to helping youth in regional New Zealand is to help them obtain their drivers’ licenses, and through the Provincial Growth Fund we are achieving that.
The New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform received $7.5 million from the PGF in mid-2018 to expand its driver’s licence programme in targeted regions, including Northland, and in the past year since, 338 youth ex-offenders obtained 562 licences across a range of license classes in that region alone.
It is an exceptional figure given that the target for the year was only 200 licenses, more than two-thirds of the 338 who passed identified themselves as Māori. In addition, the Department of Corrections has placed 120 of them into employment.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said that as most entry level jobs require a driver’s license, this will improve employment prospects of the participants significantly. A driver’s license also provides ex-offenders with identification for situations such as renting a property or opening up a back account, which are important steps for reintegration back into society.
The good news ticks a number of boxes for the Coalition Government as the regions become safer with fewer unlicensed drivers, and more young people are able to benefit from economic opportunities being created.