Auckland Airport is giving $120,000 to 12 charities as part of its annual 12 days of Christmas initiative. The Herald will profile each initiative.

Learning to drive can be a daunting experience and it's even harder when you don't have a car to practice with or take to the test.

Behind the Wheel Mangere has been working with ACC and the New Zealand Transport Agency to get more people sitting their driver licences in a bid to reduce the number of illegal drivers on the road and reduce the number of crashes caused by young people.

The charity was chosen by Auckland Airport for the $10,000 grant because of its role in linking education and employment, which was a strong focus of the airport's own business, as well as being on the airport's back door.

Behind the Wheel started two years ago and has been targeting Mangere and surrounding areas because of the high number of people driving illegally and because the closest testing site is in Manukau, so even getting there can be problematic.


And even then, people often didn't have a road-worthy car they could use to sit the test.

The trust promotes the benefits of having a driver licence such as getting a photo ID, improving the chances of getting a job, having independence, gaining NCEA credits and it runs learner, restricted and full licence workshops.

It has trained five people to be qualified instructors who take students around and also take them on a practice run of the driving test course where they identify any hazards on the road.

So far 300 people had gone through the course and it was not just young people, but entire families.

Peter Sykes, chief executive of Behind the Wheels' parent organisation ME Family Services, said the $10,000 grant from Auckland Airport would pay for a car that people could not only practice in but use when they sat their test.

The board was still working out exactly what type of car would be suitable, but Sykes said it had to be a manual and a car its clients would be likely to own, so a new-model BMW would not meet the criteria even if the budget allowed.

Any remaining money would subsidise driver licence test fees.