OPINION: Your old mate had a bit of a giggle at current Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor's effusive praise of the primary sector, when releasing the latest MPI SOPI report late last year.
The funding, provided by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), will be spread over three years to boost the Waka Kotahi Community Road Safety Fund.
Waka Kotahi will use the funding to partner with community providers to deliver rural-focused driver licensing and education, which will include free driving lessons. The aim is to help people to get jobs in the food and fibre sector and learn how to drive safely.
“Everyone deserves the chance to have the independence that comes with obtaining a full driver’s licence, and the job opportunities this can provide,” O’Connor says.
People in rural communities face higher barriers to getting their driver’s licence than those in our urban centres. These include difficulties with accessing driver licence training.
“Increasing access to driver training and supporting more people in rural communities to get their full licence will also help make our roads safer for everyone who uses them,” Transport Minister Michael Wood says.
“It will complement driver licensing programmes already underway across the regions. By offering driver training specific to rural people, we’re supporting connections with rural employers and getting more people on their way to getting their full licence.”
Increasing access to driver training and licensing is one of the deliverables, under Road to Zero, New Zealand’s road safety strategy which aims to reduce deaths and serious injuries on New Zealand roads by 40%.
O’Connor says this work builds on previous work funded by MPI earlier this year to help migrants in Mid-Canterbury to get their driver’s licence and supports the Government’s goal of boosting jobs in the food and fibre sector.
“A central goal of our Fit for a Better World roadmap and our Opportunity Grows Here campaign is boosting food and fibre sector jobs for Kiwis,” O’Connor says.
“Increasing rural community access to driver licensing training will open up more job opportunities by equipping our rural people with skills sought by many employers.
“The new community initiatives will help ensure we have right workforce in our rural communities to drive our economic recovery from Covid-19 and help pave New Zealand’s way to prosperity,” O’Connor says.