A group of seasonal workers who couldn't return to Samoa due to Covid-19 have gained their full New Zealand driver licences after a Hastings police officer with a passion for driver licensing helped.
The men arrived in Hawke's Bay from Samoa in October 2019 to work at Silver Fern Farms' Hawke's Bay beef processing site, Pacific.
Under New Zealand law they could drive on their Samoan licences for 12 months, which is usually fine as they would return home every year. But then Covid hit and they did not return home.
The Government temporarily changed the rules in December 2020, extending the period for driving on an overseas licence to a maximum of 24 months after arrival.
This meant the workers could drive until October this year, but it didn't solve the problem long-term, especially if they stay on in New Zealand.
Hastings Senior Constable Chris Leppien and Silver Fern Farms' training co-ordinator and pastoral care contact for Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers, Jilly Brown, then got involved.
Leppien, who worked at Silver Fern Farms before joining Police, knew many of the men through the rugby team she managed.
Together, she and Brown hatched a plan to help the workers gain a full New Zealand licence.
Brown arranged for the workers to be available when Leppien needed them for lessons.
Leppien prepared them for a theory test, which was challenging due to language barriers, and she also helped with driving lessons to prepare them for the full practical test.
Six months on, six workers now have their full New Zealand licences, allowing them to drive vanloads of workers to and from work each day.
Brown said Silver Fern Farms provides four houses and four vans for the 35 Samoan workers they employ, and the goal is to have two fully licensed drivers per house.
"Chris has done an absolutely amazing job helping these workers get their full licences. It is a true example of two great-minded women getting their heads together and finding a solution".
Leppien previously initiated theory classes for staff at the plant to assist them prior to sitting their learner licence test.
"She does wondrous things for us," Brown said.
Leppien said her motivation comes from her passion for driver licensing, which can change people's lives.
"It means they can more easily become a contributing member of society. Because we don't have a lot of public transport in Hastings, people need cars to get to work, so without a licence that's tough."
In 2009, she created a resource to help secondary school students prepare for sitting their learner's licence theory test.
"It's a big ask to get teenagers to sit down and memorise the Road Code. This resource reflects all the questions they will be asked in the learner theory test and teaches them in a more user-friendly way."
The resource is now available in schools across Hawke's Bay and has been shared with other Police districts.