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Driving Success – Te Atakura Huata-Harawira

Driving Success – Te Atakura Huata-Harawira

2 November 2017

Being an unlicenced driver can be a very expensive exercise. Fines for no warrant, registration or licence soon add up, as Te Atakura Huata-Harawira discovered some years back.

With almost $2,000 owing, Te Atakura realised she would be far better off investing in becoming a qualified driver than paying back fines, so the Flaxmere mother-of-four made up her mind to get her licence.

Since then Te Atakura has been the driving force behind helping hundreds of others becoming licenced drivers too. She says she understands first-hand the barriers unlicenced drivers face.

“A lot of people can’t afford to feed their families properly, let alone pay all the costs involved with getting a licence, others are scared of failing, and many just don’t have someone to show them how to drive.”

As the creater and co-ordinator of the ‘Get Your Licence’ Programme, Te Atakura now runs free workshops for aspiring drivers and provides affordable one-on-one ‘in-car’ support for drivers at all stages of the licencing process.

“Because of my own experience I know exactly what to teach. I’m not a driving instructor – I don’t teach how to drive, I teach how to pass.”

The voluntary driving support programme started in 2013, after Te Atakura decided to share her new-found knowledge with her community. She’s the first to admit that in the beginning she didn’t have a clear idea on how to ‘get it off the ground’.

“I wasn’t sure where to start so I just started emailing people – I’m more of a doer than a thinker!”

In her search for premises and seed funding, Te Atakura was introduced to Robyn Smith, the Hastings District Council community development project manager.

Te Atakura says Robyn was like a mentor, helping her with networking, finding a place to hold meetings and getting the message out about what the programme offered.

“Once we got some momentum everything happened really fast, and we started running one-day workshops for people wanting to get their learners, restricted or full licences. Then we began offering practical support for people who wanted driving experience – the only rule is that they must bring along the car they are going to sit their licence in, as I believe this increases their chance of passing.”

A business plan for the programme is currently being developed to help guide growth, supported by community-based social services provider Te Ikaroa-Rangatahi.

Te Atakura says she is keen to expand the services they offer, but does not want it to become too expensive.

“I’m not motivated by money. I’m definitely going to carry on, but some things need to change to ensure it succeeds long term. People want it and need it, and so I want to keep helping them. At the moment we charge $20 to help cover basic costs like printing, and to put towards a koha for the places we hold meetings and a koha for other experienced drivers who help out.”

Since ‘Get Your Licence’ kicked off, over 350 people have successfully completed the programme and gained their licence. Most are Flaxmere locals, but others from around the region have benefitted from the down-to-earth support and encouragement Te Atakura and her volunteers offer.

“We have people of all ages coming to us, from 17 to over 70! They are super-excited when they pass, and for me every single pass is a success story!”

Matariki Programme Manager Gerard Quinn says increasing the number of people with drivers’ licences is a pragmatic way to help improve pathways to and through employment.

“The link between being a licenced driver and the ability to get a job is highlighted by Ministry of Social Development information that shows a Work and Income job seeker with a driver’s licence is seven times more likely to get a job than someone without a licence.”

Thus increasing the number of licenced drivers is a key action (Action 2.4) in Matariki – Hawke’s Bay Regional Economic Develop Strategy (HBREDS), a long term plan to grow jobs across the region, increase household incomes and raise Hawke’s Bay economic performance into the top quarter of New Zealand regions.

HBREDS is a collaborative effort between iwi and hapu, the business sector, central government agencies like Ministry of Social Development and Te Puna Kokiri, local authorities including Police and Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, organisations such as ‘Connecting for Youth Employment’ and individuals such as Te Atakura Harawira-Huata who understand first-hand the importance of gaining a licence, says Mr Quinn.

“Supporting people to get a driver’s licence is also a collaborative effort, forming a firm foundation for a participating workforce and community. There is much to be gained when the community works together to achieve this goal.”

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