Former Waiheke youth aid officer Patrick Knight has won an award for his work bringing driving lessons to the island.
At the Auckland City District Police Awards this month, Constable Knight received a commander’s commendation for his work setting up the WaiDrive programme.
“This initiative has resulted in approximately 45 people being able to obtain their driver’s licences and significantly less youth being dealt with around driver licensing breaches.
“Your initiative, leadership, and commitment in this programme are in the highest traditions of the New Zealand Police,” said District Commander Karyn Malthus.
Although receiving the award is “an honour”, Constable Knight says the project was not just his work but a collective effort from the island community and businesses.
While teaching learner driver classes at Waiheke Adult Learning, Constable Knight became aware that many young people were getting their learners’ licences, but few were able to take the next step of gaining their restricted driver’s licence.
The cost and time involved in travelling to Auckland for driving lessons was a significant barrier, so he worked with local groups and businesses to fund training for a driving instructor on the island.
A dual-control manual car was donated with funds from Waiheke Local Board, Auckland Transport and the Police Managers Guild.
In September last year, driving instructor James O’Malley began offering subsidised lessons on Waiheke for a wide range of people wanting to gain a driver’s licence.
Constable Knight says the overall aim is to make the island’s roads safer.
“It decreases the number of people receiving tickets for being unlicensed and hopefully decreases the amount of crashes, because people are better drivers,” he says.
In November last year, Constable Knight left the Waiheke role he had held for two years, because his wife was struggling with the long commute to her job in prison rehabilitation in South Auckland while pregnant with their daughter.
He is now acting sergeant in Glen Innes, an area that is a “very different kettle of fish” to the island.
“I really like Waiheke – it’s a good community and there are good staff… who knows what the future holds,” he says. • Rose Davis