Licensing scheme aims to end isolation

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By Maureen Bishop

In a bid to end social and geographical isolation of newcomers in Ashburton’s rural communities, a driving licensing scheme has been developed.

The Mid Canterbury Rural Support Trust in partnership with Safer Ashburton has developed the scheme, which is targeted at women in rural areas who are newcomers to the district.

The trust is putting $10,000 into the scheme during the first year and has additional funding from the Ashburton District Council ($10,000), Advance Ashburton ($10,000) and Ashburton District Road Safety Council ($5,000).

This will enable the employment of a co-ordinator for 20 hours a week to develop and deliver the course.

The course builds on earlier schemes in 2009 and 2011 which assisted migrant women to gain their learner’s licence. A lack of funding meant a second stage to help them get a restricted licence did not proceed.

Kevin Clifford, manager of Safer Ashburton, said the proposal was for a three-year course, with two intakes of 12 people each year.

With a greater emphasis on rural wellness, the rural support trust supported the project to try to integrate rural women, particularly those in the dairy industry, and end their isolation.

“Some of them can’t even drive to school things, and the school is a big part of the community in rural areas,” said Judy Skevington, the manager of the trust.

Access to transport via a valid New Zealand driver’s licence was a simple and practical tool for civic and community engagement.

The co-ordinator’s position has been advertised and it is hoped to make an appointment before Christmas.

The trust will be looking for volunteers for such things as providing transport to and from the course, and providing child care if needed.

More funding will be sought to enable the course to continue.