COVID-19: Backlog of 11,500 driver’s license tests after lockdown could suspend the lives of young Aucklanders for months

After the highly infectious Delta variant was detected in Auckland in mid-August, the Super City was plunged into lockdown – and remains under strict restrictions three months later – forcing companies into close contact, including the driving test centers, to close shop.

Under the current alert level, practice tests are only allowed at alert levels 1 and 2, testing cannot be reserved for levels 3 or 4.

Now, young people who thought they had their licenses in time to get to college, travel or work face significant delays while waiting for a backlog of tests booked before and during the lockdown to clear.

The mother Newshub spoke to said her two teenagers were on apprenticeship licenses, with her older child initially booked to take her restricted test in April or May. However, due to illness, she canceled her reservation and postponed it. The next available date given to him was August.

Meanwhile, her youngest tried to book her restricted license test in June, but was also given an appointment in August. She says driver licensing officers have struggled to catch up since the lockdown last year.

“So the two had to wait three months,” the mother told Newshub. “Some of their friends even took the car to Hamilton to get reservations, or they would search online every day. [hoping] for a cancellation so they can hopefully take a test [sooner].

“It’s like they never caught up with the Alert Level 4 lockdown last year. [The queue] never seemed to move. “

When Auckland went into lockdown on August 17, all bookings were automatically put on hold due to the restrictions in place.

“All reservations were on hold, so they wouldn’t be accepting any reservations for Auckland,” the mother said.

“In the last week or so we finally got an update where they had both been booked for the end of January – so they just sent you an appointment and said ‘here is your date’ . “

However, her eldest daughter paid to attend a festival in late January – coinciding with her postponed booking. Her daughter now fears that delaying her test could mean waiting three more months – or more – to get her license.

All she can do now is hope for a cancellation so she can take the test sooner, she said.

“If she can’t sit by that date, she thinks she’s going to go in the pool with not only those who already have reservations, but all the kids who [became eligible] from August to December will now have joined this queue, ”said the mother.

“So instead of it being a three month backlog, they might be looking at a six month backlog… is she going to potentially consider the middle of next year before she can even get a reservation? “

She said that to her knowledge, her daughters had not received any further communication from the AA prior to the rebooking email, which “came out of the blue.” They had heard from their driving instructor, who informed them that until Auckland went to Alert Level 2, there was not much to do.

With her eldest now back home from college and her youngest still in school, the mother said she was stranded as a “taxi driver” for the foreseeable future.

“I would just like to know that they are going to make an effort to catch up… the delay will be huge. When they open the bookings in Auckland, it’s going to explode, it’s going to be huge.

“There is potentially going to be a lot more time [to wait] now, and i really feel for kids trying to start a job or an apprenticeship … this will keep kids from going into [work]. Are they all just going to drive without a license? “

She says her daughters are increasingly frustrated as they live in a part of Auckland where public transport is not as accessible.

“It’s this permanent inconvenience… it’s like, ‘Can I be bothered to do this?’ or “should I go?” It just keeps them from doing the things they should be able to do at this age. “

What is being done to eliminate the backlog?

A spokesperson for Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) confirmed to Newshub that it had rescheduled 22,000 driving tests nationwide since the lockdown went into effect on August 18.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for New Zealand’s Waka Kotahi transport agency confirmed that as of August 18, there were around 11,500 tests booked in the Auckland area that can finally be taken from December.

“VTNZ and Waka Kotahi are working together to continue to reschedule testing for affected customers before bookings resume,” said the VTNZ spokesperson.

VTNZ is awaiting indications of when it can safely resume practice testing under the government’s new COVID-19 protection framework, a three-stage ‘traffic light’ system that will be implemented across the country. countries from December 3.

As part of this, those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are rewarded with a return to a relatively normal life. Close contact businesses are allowed to open their doors with caps on customers still in place – however, they must use the My Vaccine Pass system to certify that all visitors or customers are fully vaccinated.

The spokesperson said VTNZ, Waka Kotahi and the Department of Health are working together to develop the necessary health and safety procedures and to support wait time management as New Zealand moves towards the new framework.

“This is a complex process and it is important that this is in place before testing is restarted.

“We anticipate [there will be] an increase in demand and this will have an additional impact on wait times. VTNZ is working on solutions to help alleviate delays and relieve pressure on the system and is working closely with NZTA to introduce testing sites and additional testing agents. “

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