A construction materials producer has upgraded an abandoned road network free of charge to help young people obtain driver’s licences – one of the major barriers to employment.
Fulton Hogan has undertaken repairs to create a specialist driver training course within Christchurch’s ‘red zone’ in the east of the New Zealand South Island city, which has been neglected since the 2011 earthquakes.
As well as the road repairs, the company applied road-markings and added signposts at no cost.
Fulton Hogan strategic communications advisor Andy Allison said given the company’s extensive role in road building and maintenance, it was looking at ways it can increase road safety.
“One of these is to ensure the quality of drivers matches the quality of the roads,” Allison explained. “One of the key contributing factors to poor driving is a subset of young people, largely for economic and educational reasons, not seeing a driver’s licence as a necessary – or possible – step to driving – and driving anyway.
“The other, connected aspect is the critical role a driver’s licence plays in employment prospects. For many it can be the difference between getting on the escalator to a career, or on a slide towards criminality.”
Allison said a team worked on and off the site for two months. Most of the labour and excavator hours went into cleaning out the post-earthquake debris, with about 160 tonnes of clean fill removed.
Approximately 12 tonnes of asphalt was used to patch potholes and 230 tonnes of AP40 shingle brought on site and spread to create a shingle country road experience on part of the track.
Lending a helping hand
The initiative is being led by Te Rununga o Nga Maata Waka which has a five-year lease on the land at no cost. It is an approved community services provider for New Zealand’s child protection agency and is accredited by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority as a private training establishment.
Caroline Elliott runs the Te Rununga o Nga Maata Waka driving course, leading a team of four full-time instructors who currently train drivers on live roads.
“I’ve been round roundabouts the wrong way one time too many and it’s terrifying – this will be such an asset,” she said.
Te Rununga o Nga Maata Waka CEO Norm Dewes, who is also a kaumatua (elder), said the program will be an asset for the whole community. Driver’s licences can be an important step in helping young, vulnerable people avoid criminality.
“There is such a huge identifiable need to give people a leg-up,” he said.
“It’s a real source of pride to have a driver’s licence, and it’s a real source of support to have Fulton Hogan stepping in to help young people achieve this. I’m always an optimist, but also realistic in knowing you can’t get anywhere on your own – you need a whole community.”
According to Fulton Hogan, there is a possibility that the driver training program could expand to include heavy-duty machinery driving skills, including diggers.