Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Driver licence bonanza

Resits at $88 a pop have netted more than $650,000.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Learner drivers have stumped up more than $650,000 to resit the controversial new test since it was introduced six months ago.

New Zealand Transport Agency figures show 7397 resits at a cost of $88 each have been taken since tough new standards were introduced in February.

And a former employee of NZ Driver Licensing, the sole company contracted to conduct driving tests, contacted the Herald on Sunday, claiming he recently quit because he was embarrassed about the number of people he was required to fail.

"After the new tests came in it was an unwritten rule that testers had to stop passing as many people as they used to," the ex-worker, who asked not to be named, said.

He said some failed candidates accused him of revenue-gathering.

"A lot of new testers were also brought in who weren't as well trained as they should be. One guy was so cocky he nick-named himself 'The Terminator'."

The Herald on Sunday reported last week that some drivers, their families and their driving instructors think the new 1R tests are too difficult and are causing unnecessary stress and financial hardship.

Out of 27,568 tests since February, 12,123 people passed and 4840 failed. Another 10,605 learners had their tests stopped because of critical errors or immediate-failure errors.

But the transport agency defends the resits. Principal adviser for testing standards, Jim Furneaux, said the new test was more difficult than the old one "but it is significant that more than 60 per cent of 16- and 17-year-olds have passed the new test, no problem".

"It is those that are stuck with bad habits they have picked up from other drivers who seem to be having the most difficulties."

Furneaux dismissed the claims from the former tester as sour grapes.

"We have not turned into a revenue-gathering agency and I don't think the money that comes in even covers our costs. This sounds like a former employee who has an axe to grind because all of our testers are properly certified for the job."

NZ Driver Licensing (1998) Limited is a listed company with six directors: Robert Carl August, Donald Roger Marley, Lionel Edwin Reeve, Michael Joseph Sidwell, James Sidney Wiles and Ian Paul Woodhouse.

Asked about how much extra money NZ Driver Licensing was making from the increased number of resits, the firm's operations manager, Gerard Clark, declined to comment and referred all queries back to NZTA's media department.

Open Road Driving School owner Matthew Harding, from Auckland, has been preparing learners for tests for 20 years. He describes the new standards as "brutal".

"If youngsters have to keep paying out for resits the big danger is that some will not be able to afford it and start driving around anyway with no proper licence or insurance."

- Herald on Sunday

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