Providing a driving force

Nga Ara Pai Community Driving Mentor Programme gets people behind the wheel.

Nga Ara Pai Community Driving Mentor Programme gets people behind the wheel.

IN THE DRIVING SEAT: Katarina Williams at the wheel with Nga Ara Pai driving mentor Dianne Akurangi in the passenger seat. Picture supplied

A “LIFE-CHANGING” community programme has helped put a Gisborne woman in the driver’s seat for her family in their time of need.

Driving responsibility fell on the shoulders of Katarina Williams after her husband suffered illness and was no longer able to drive.

The mother of two young children did not have a licence but was determined to get one, and achieved that through the Nga Ara Pai Community Driving Mentor Programme.

Katarina is one of more than 80 people who have significantly improved their driving skills and gained a restricted licence with the help of the programme.

She was referred to Nga Ara Pai by Turanga Health’s Hapu Mama service.

Katarina said she never thought she would be confident enough to get behind the wheel but with the support of volunteer mentors had progressed into week seven of the 10-week course.

“Having mentors to give me driving experience is great,” she said. “All their advice and tips have helped me learn a lot in a short time, and it’s good having a variety of people to drive around with.”

Safety educator

Tairawhiti Roads road safety educator and NAP co-ordinator and driving mentor Dianne Akurangi said Katarina’s story was similar to many others.

“We’ve already seen some really positive and successful outcomes from the programme to date.”

Dianne said NAP targeted low-income people with young families, and young drivers between 16 and 24.

The programme costs $137, which also covers a restricted licence test.

Participants receive a road code, up to three professional driving lessons, up to three mentored drives a week, plus access to a vehicle, free petrol and professional advice.

It is the third year the programme has been run in Gisborne, and there have been more courses on offer this year.

“The number of courses we are offering has doubled, which means we’ll have more people attaining licences than ever before, increased safety for passengers and road users and better outcomes for low-income whanau,” said Dianne.

“It is life-changing for a lot of people.”

More mentors were needed, she said.

“There are 25 mentors and we now have two service providers on board — McInnes Driver Training and Passrite Driving Academy — running parallel courses, with up to 15 students a course over a 10-week period.”

A dozen students have passed their restricted licence tests so far this year.

A “LIFE-CHANGING” community programme has helped put a Gisborne woman in the driver’s seat for her family in their time of need.

Driving responsibility fell on the shoulders of Katarina Williams after her husband suffered illness and was no longer able to drive.

The mother of two young children did not have a licence but was determined to get one, and achieved that through the Nga Ara Pai Community Driving Mentor Programme.

Katarina is one of more than 80 people who have significantly improved their driving skills and gained a restricted licence with the help of the programme.

She was referred to Nga Ara Pai by Turanga Health’s Hapu Mama service.

Katarina said she never thought she would be confident enough to get behind the wheel but with the support of volunteer mentors had progressed into week seven of the 10-week course.

“Having mentors to give me driving experience is great,” she said. “All their advice and tips have helped me learn a lot in a short time, and it’s good having a variety of people to drive around with.”

Safety educator

Tairawhiti Roads road safety educator and NAP co-ordinator and driving mentor Dianne Akurangi said Katarina’s story was similar to many others.

“We’ve already seen some really positive and successful outcomes from the programme to date.”

Dianne said NAP targeted low-income people with young families, and young drivers between 16 and 24.

The programme costs $137, which also covers a restricted licence test.

Participants receive a road code, up to three professional driving lessons, up to three mentored drives a week, plus access to a vehicle, free petrol and professional advice.

It is the third year the programme has been run in Gisborne, and there have been more courses on offer this year.

“The number of courses we are offering has doubled, which means we’ll have more people attaining licences than ever before, increased safety for passengers and road users and better outcomes for low-income whanau,” said Dianne.

“It is life-changing for a lot of people.”

More mentors were needed, she said.

“There are 25 mentors and we now have two service providers on board — McInnes Driver Training and Passrite Driving Academy — running parallel courses, with up to 15 students a course over a 10-week period.”

A dozen students have passed their restricted licence tests so far this year.

If you are over 25, hold a full New Zealand driver’s licence and are interested in becoming a mentor driver or would like more information, contact Dianne Akurangi at Gisborne District Council on 867-2049.

The next two courses start on May 9 and May 17.

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