Practical driver licence testing will return to Cambridge next year and not before time, says Waipā mayor Jim Mylchreest.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency would not reveal where the testing would take place only to say it would return after a nine-year absence.
The agency removed the service in 2012 as part of the Government’s new Safer Journeys strategy. It required a more complex driving test including “multiple lanes and a minimum level of traffic to achieve the level of challenge required.
Waka Kotahi started a review two years ago following requests from community groups, the mayor and Taupō MP Louise Upston.
Cambridge driving instructor Sheryl Moffat, from Brighteye Driving School welcomed the announcement.
“This is wonderful news for my students,” said Moffat.
Many have had to go to Te Awamutu, Hamilton, Morrinsville and even as far away as Tauranga and Whakatane to do their tests.
Getting an appointment can take months.
“Some of these students have already waited a long time because of Covid and they’ve worked hard, and they want to get their licences.”
Mylchreest said it was great to see the community was finally being listened to.
“I could not see why it took so long but don’t let us look a gift horse in the mouth. Maybe water dripping on stone does actually work.”
Mylchreest has previously told The News he had written to various Transport ministers and even offered space in Waipā’s Cambridge service centre.
“They use all sorts of crazy excuses,” he said.
“The cost to a licence is cheaper for (Waka Kotahi) but they don’t consider the user costs. Things like parents taking a day off work to take their children to Tokoroa or Hamilton.”
Mylchreest said the drivers had practiced in Cambridge and built up their competence to then have to sit the practical test somewhere else.
The decision to bring testing back to Cambridge and in Matamata comes as Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency looks at ways to reduce barriers within the licensing system, Waka Kotahi said in a media release.
It also reflects the desire of local communities to re-introduce testing services, says Waka Kotahi Director Regional Relationships David Speirs.
“We’ve heard the message from a range of community groups and leaders that driver testing is an important local service and we’re pleased to say it will be back next year,” Mr Speirs says.
Cambridge would offer practical driving tests from early next year, with Matamata expected to be up and running by the end of the year.
Adding two more testing sites for the Waikato will ease pressure on the existing sites in Hamilton (at Frankton and Te Rapa), Te Awamutu, Morrinsville and Tokoroa, said Speirs.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency works to create transport solutions for all New Zealanders – from helping new drivers earn their licences, to leading safety campaigns to investing in public transport, state highways and local roads.
Moffat, who does driving tuition in both Te Awamutu and Cambridge, said she could never understand why testing continued in Te Awamutu but not in Cambridge.
Cambridge had traffic lights while Te Awamutu, Tokoroa and Morrinsville, where testing continued, did not.
Cambridge also had several driver challenges – such as cycle lanes – which made for good practical tests.
“You’ve got a lot of interesting intersections in Cambridge. It can be a difficult town to drive in,” said Moffat.