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14 April 2015

Organs are simply not conventional dinner conversation unless you're eating steak and kidney pie or calves fry and bacon.  We barely spare a thought for how our body works until it doesn't.

This is something though that you are brought face-to-face with every time you renew or update your driver's license.

Question 4 asks whether you would like to be an organ donor or not.

Statistics, I have seen quoted, suggest that our opt-in rate is a little under 50% which is higher than I thought it might be considering there is little or no easily accessible official information to help us decide.   The actual number of donors who end up in a situation to offer their organs is around 45 people per annum.

It took me a few emails and trolling the internet to start to answer the questions I had.

Let me signpost 3 resources to help you.  The first is the Statement of Death and Organ Donation (pdf) from the Australia New Zealand Intensive Care Society, another is a website called Give Life NZ that has it's own FAQs, and the last is Organ Donation NZ's FAQ.


Here is a 10-point summary of what I found out:

  • There is no legal definition in New Zealand for death.

In New Zealand, death and organ donation are covered by the Human Tissue Act 2008, which uses the words ‘satisfied… that the individual concerned is dead’ without statutory definition. *

  • We can donate heart or heart valves, lungs, liver, kidneys, pancreas, skin and eye tissue subject to medical tests and matching needs.  A person's prior general health also dictates what may be used. 
  • Checking 'Yes' on your driver's license form is only an indication that you want to be recognised as someone who would consider organ donation.  Presently this is not interpreted as implicit consent.  No particular organs are stipulated.
  • At present only organs from people who end up brain dead in the intensive care unit can be used.
  • There is a series of stages one may pass through in the dying process.  Where a person is at determines what they may donate.

Dying is a process rather than an event. The determination and certification of death indicate that an irrevocable point in the dying process has been reached, not that the process has ended. *

  • It is your family that make the final whether or not to allow organ donation and sign the consent.  Any operations are usually completed within 6 - 12 hours after death is pronounced so they don't interfere with any bereavement plans.  [No anesthetic is used as a person who is brain dead can not feel.]
  • Two doctors must run through tests to determine death.  I'll spare you the specifics as they are in the ANZICS document.  It is after the second doctor declares that a patient is brain dead that the official time/date of death is recorded.  [It seems that family are often allowed to be at these examinations on the understanding or with the guidance of a liaison who will explain the process.]
  • "There is no documented case of a person who fulfils the preconditions and criteria for brain death ever subsequently developing any return of brain function." *
  • Organ Donation NZ co-ordinate the surgical transplant team (independent of the ICU team), the matching with a compatible recipient, and the subsequent after donation support a family may need.
  • Your body will not appear disfigured if organs are removed. It will have stitches like a normal operation.


If the standards of care are abided by, and people could genuinely benefit from a mortal tragedy, it seems logical to check 'Yes' on your driver's license.   You don't have to wait until you are filling out another paper form, simply phone the NZTA to have it changed on the license register 0800 822 422.


To be honest, I am dubious about the state-funded medical system at the very best of times, so that doesn't help at all.

Vega said something though that I am mulling over, when I told her what I was contemplating ... "Mum, you are always helping people so I think you would want to." She may just sway my decision.


* The ANZICS Statement on Death and Organ Donation, Edition 3.2, 2013.

07 April 2015

Theory test work station


There is little difference between the process for sitting the theory test for your class 1 and that of 2, 3, or 5 except remembering to take your completed medical examination form with you.

I went in today so let me walk you through exactly what happened.

Initially I only intended to apply to sit my test at a later date but found that no appointment is required so there was no time like the present to sit the 2L and get it over with.  I had already told myself that it was more than likely I would have to come back and re-sit (as I'd heard modern day driver licensing was hard) so this would save me an extra trip!


You hand over your filled-in DL1 - driving license application form; your medical examination certificate; and two forms of id - one of which must include a photo; and your driver's license if you haven't already used that as your photo id.  [If you have a photo driver's license you only need that as the sole id - not two forms.  More information on the new requirements for identity documents is here]  The clerk will hold onto your license.  You pay your application fee and your theory test fee; sign a digital slate for the signature that will appear on your new license; and sit down to have your photo taken.  There are no mirrors and you do not get to see your photo on screen - they simply take one photo and if they are happy it meets the criteria for the license that's it.

If you have a mobile phone it is taken from you at this point, usually with your handbag and put behind the counter; and you are escorted to the testing work station.

All the stations I have seen are simply in the main foyer / room of the testing agent.  Music is going in the background; vehicles are being brake-tested outside; children are crying; and staff are talking to members of the public behind you.  It doesn't make for a quiet conducive space to concentrate in especially when it's school holidays [what was I thinking?].

The clerk instructs you to enter a 4-digit pin code from a piece of paper, and you read the opening page of the test instructions.  If you have understood that, you click to start the test and question number 1 appears.

This is when the 30-minute timer starts and the clerk walks you through answering the first question.  You are informed that if necessary the test time may be extended; and to let them know at the 5-minute-to-go warning that you will need more time.  Being told this made me quite concerned that I too would need this time.

You are advised that if you know the answer to the question you select the (large) button and click on 'next question' where it will be revealed if you got it correct or not.  If you get it correct it automatically proceeds to the next question albeit rather slowly.  If you get it wrong it will show you the right answer and you will need to click 'next question'.  If you are not 100% sure of the answer you can click on the 'next question' button and this activates the question coming up again at the end of the test for you to have another go at.

I thought this functionality of the test was considerate.


So there I was in a noisy environment (noisier than having 5 children at home looking over my shoulder, whining, asking questions etc!) staring at an antiquated-looking computer programme (think very early huge rounded-corner box buttons) in a non-ergonomic set-up, navigating with only a corded mouse, and taking one question at a time.

To be honest, the questions were a lot easier than I expected, especially after so thoroughly studying via drivingtests.co.nz .  There was only ever 1 correct answer required out of either 2 or 4 possible answers, and no 'check all that apply' ones,  There weren't even, in my mind 2 very close answers that would have you oscillating twixt the two if you weren't quite sure.

The outcome:  I passed.  100%.  Wahoo!


With the theory completed you return to the clerk (or due to the influx of secondary school-aged children I had to wait for a bit) to receive your temporary paper license which you also sign.  [As an aside ... these DLE-sized license books are bound on the left hand edge like most cheque books and consequently are not easy for left-handers to sign.  Perhaps clerk's can rip it from the book before asking you to sign to mitigate this for everyone?]

You are told that your new license ought to be sent out within 21 days but that if it isn't please call the 0800 number on the front of the temporary license before it expires.


Then you go out and celebrate!  Vega was with me so we shared a passionfruit - mochaccino ice cream sundae.


One thing that concerned me was that the test was too easy; and that cramming had been used by others (just that same morning) to pass their class 1 theory that afternoon. I seriously doubt those high-schoolers will retain anything in even 2-4 weeks let alone for the duration of their practical driving requirements or beyond. How can answering only 35 questions really show a thorough understanding of the road rules? Even the student's accompanying teacher was bragging about their sure-fire system that they used to get their students to pass; as if passing was the ultimate result and real in-depth understanding didn't even factor into the equation. It makes me feel more unsafe on the road.

31 March 2015

Commercial public weigh station, Napier


On a class 2 license you are allowed to drive 5 different types of vehicles:

  • A rigid vehicle (including any tractor) with a GLW of more than 6000kg but less than 18,000kg
  • A combination vehicle (that is not a tractor/trailer combination) with a GCW of not more than 12,000kg
  • A combination vehicle (that is not a tractor) consisting of a rigid vehicle with a GLW of 18,000kg or less towing a light trailer (GLW of 3500kg or less)
  • A rigid vehicle with a GLW of more than 18,000kg that has no more than two axles
  • A tractor with a GLW of more than 6000kg but not more than 18,000kg, if driven at a speed over 30km/h
Ever wondered how a vehicle is weighed though?
That's the function of a weigh station or weigh bridge - an expanse of metal plating or concrete slabs that serve as a long narrow 'basket' for scales that measure in the tonnes instead of grams or kilogrammes.  Some are above ground and have a ramp to drive up, others are set into a pit so you drive straight onto them.
Weighing a vehicle becomes important after custom manufacturing & modifications to check it's within it's class weight allowance; or for companies whose primary function is to carry loads that may vary in weight and who want to prevent getting a fine for bearing too much.   It could also be very useful if you are towing a fully laden caravan with your passengers in a car / van / motorhome and want to satisfy yourself that you can still do this on a class 1 license.
Most weigh stations are commercial and privately-owned meaning that if you are interested in using them there will be a fee.  They are directed at the multiple-use traffic moreso than the curious, and will have an account payment system with key or card access to the facilities 24/7.  [You'd be forgiven in thinking that just because some are designated as 'public weighbridges' they are free to the public.]
Unfortunately a Yellow pages search also brings up all the retailers of weighbridges not just the publicly accessible places.  If you are looking for a one-off weigh you may also be able to ask at local firms with their own installed on-site scales if they'd be willing to do you a favour - think metal or aggregate yards, agricultural grain stores, forestry or logging firms, rubbish disposal plants,  fruit packaging warehouses etc.
The NZTA is responsible for the weighbridges used by the NZ Police Commercial Vehicles Investigation Unit (CVIU) around the country to perform their road safety and Operator Safety Rating (ORS) checks.  These are in all the major districts: Auckland (Drury), Waikato (Paengaroa), Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Manawatu/Wanganui, Wellington (Plimmerton), Marlborough, Nelson, Tasman, West Coat, Otago, & Canterbury.
Naturally it's better to be safe than sorry, and know (your weight) before you go.