Driving licence in New Zealand
The New Zealand driver's licence system is a graduated system, which has been in place (with modifications, such as the L-plate requirement) since 1987. It consists of three phases for a car licence, each with varying levels of conditions.
A New Zealand driver's licence allows the holder to drive a moped, some agricultural vehicles and all-terrain vehicles as well as a car, however, motorbikes and heavy vehicles require separate licences. Upon passing the respective test for each stage of the system, the successful applicant is given a temporary paper licence to begin driving immediately while their permanent licence is printed and sent to them by post. The permanent licence contains a unique identifying number, date of birth and photograph of the holder. Apart from passports and a special-purpose 18+ card, a photo driver's licence is the only legal form of ID for buying alcohol, tobacco and fireworks in New Zealand.
New Zealand driver's licences are issued by the New Zealand Transport Agency, but in the earlier part of the twentieth century were issued by local bodies, specifically city, borough or county councils.
Drivers must carry their licence at all times while driving. If they fail to do so they may face a fine of NZ$200.
The New Zealand driver licensing system is split into six classes of licence. Class 1 ("car licence") allows the driver to drive most cars, light vehicles, moped, tractor and all-terrain vehicles, while Class 6 ("motorcycle licence") allows the driver to ride a motorcycle. Classes 2, 3, 4, and 5 ("heavy vehicles licence") allow the driver to drive heavy vehicles of varying degrees according to the classes carried.
Classes 1 and 6 licences are able to be obtained on or after the driver's 16th birthday. Prior to 1 August 2011, the minimum age was 15 years, which means drivers born between 1 August 1995 and 31 July 1996 can hold a licence under 16 if they applied for it on or before 31 July 2011. Obtaining a Class 1 or Class 6 licence involves a three-tier stage system, starting with the learner licence, followed by the restricted licence, before finally obtaining the full licence. Classes 2 to 5 can be obtained only by a driver that carries a Class 1 full licence, and involves a two-tier stage system, missing out the restricted licence step.
This table shows which vehicles can be driven while holding which class of licence:-
|Car or light rigid vehicle
(GLW ≤ 3500 kg)
|Car or light rigid vehicle with trailer
(GCW ≤ 3500 kg)
|Moped or ATV||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Tractor or farm machinery||Up to 4500kg GLW (all licences)
Up to 6000kg GLW (full licence)
Up to 18,000kg GLW if driven at 40km/h or less (restricted and full licence)
|Up to 18,000kg GLW||Up to 18,000kg GLW||Yes||Yes||No|
|Heavy rigid vehicle
(GLW > 3500 kg)
|Up to 4500kg GLW (all licences)
up to 6000kg GLW (full licence)
|Up to 18,000kg GLW
Yes if vehicle has two or less axles
|Up to 18,000kg GLW
Yes if vehicle has two or less axles
|Heavy rigid vehicle with light trailer
(GCW > 3500 kg, trailer GLW ≤ 3500 kg)
|Up to 4500kg GCW (all licences)
up to 6000kg GCW (full licence)
|Up to 18,000kg vehicle GLW||Up to 18,000kg vehicle GLW||Yes||Yes||No|
|Heavy combination vehicle
(GCW > 3500 kg, trailer GLW > 3500 kg)
|No||Up to 12,000kg GCW||Up to 25,000kg GCW||Up to 12,000kg GCW||Yes||No|
In addition to the six classes, driving some types of vehicles or services require licence endorsements:
- D – dangerous goods
- F – forklifts
- I – driving instructor
- O – driver testing officer
- P – commercial passenger (e.g. taxi and bus drivers)
- R – vehicles running on rollers
- T – vehicles running on self-laying tracks
- V – vehicle recovery (e.g. tow-truck drivers)
- W – special-type vehicles running on wheels
A learner licence is gained after scoring at least 32 out of 35 on a multiple-choice test relating to road rules. Once gained, it allows the holder to drive provided they display black-on-yellow learner plates and are accompanied by a "supervisor" (being any person who has held a full licence for at least two years). The learner licence is a blue plastic card, and is issued to an applicant who passes the learner's test.
When a driver has held their learner licence for six months, they are eligible to progress to a restricted licence, providing they meet the eyesight and medical requirements, and pass the one hour practical test. Restricted licence holders are permitted to drive on their own between the hours of 5am and 10pm, and allowed to carry specific passengers such as their long term partner or spouse, parent or child. If the licence holder is driving with a supervisor (a person who has held their full licence for a minimum of two years) seated in the front passenger seat, the night driving and passenger restrictions do not apply.
The final part of the licencing system, a full licence allows the holder to drive at any time, and is normally issued without any other conditions. Restricted licence holders may apply for their full licence after holding their restricted licence for a period of 18 months, or 12 months if an approved defensive driving course has been completed (after six months of holding their licence). However, for drivers 25 years of age or older, the period that the restricted licence is held is six months, or three months with an approved course having been completed. The practical, in-car test has a duration of 30 minutes. When the holder has held their full licence for two years, they are eligible to act as a supervisor for learner and restricted licence holders.
Full licences have to be renewed once every ten years until the driver is 75. Drivers must then renew their drivers licence on their 75th birthday, 80th birthday, and every second birthday after that.
A New Zealand licence is valid for use for a limited period of time in many countries. An International Driving Permit (IDP) may be obtained from the Automobile Association. To obtain an IDP a person must be 18 years of age or over, hold a full current licence and pay a NZ$20 fee. 
Visitors to New Zealand who hold overseas drivers licences may be required to take a driving test before they qualify for a full New Zealand licence. However, those from countries with similar road rules are only required to take a theory test (similar to the learner licence test) within a year of arrival or even simply convert their license to a full New Zealand drivers license for only $40 without any further tests (e.g. Germany); until this time they may continue to drive on their foreign drivers licence provided it is either written in English, or they have an authorised English translation available.
Driving age concerns
Before 1st of August 2011, someone could apply for a learner licence from the age of 15, and subsequently apply for a restricted licence by 15 and a half years of age, allowing unsupervised driving with certain restrictions, and finally a full licence by 16 and a half years of age. The minimum driver licensing age was raised by one year to 16 years of age since 1st of August 2011, so the earliest someone can drive unsupervised is 16 and a half years of age. This change was initially met with opposition from people living in rural or remote areas. Many teenagers in rural areas learn to drive "on the farm" from the age of 12 by using farm equipment such as tractors. From a family day planning perspective, it is easier for students living in rural areas without access to public transport to drive themselves to school, when they become old enough to drive.
Oldest licensed driver
Bob Edwards is the oldest licensed driver in New Zealand, and one of the oldest in the world. He's 105 and has been driving 88 years.
- "Driving age to rise to 16". The New Zealand Herald. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- The graduated driver licensing system (GDLS) has changed, 1 August 2011, retrieved 13 July 2012
- "Put the metal to the pedal: At 105, world’s oldest driver still loves the open road". Washington Times. Retrieved 6 June 2013.