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New Zealand paper names and shames every drink-driver at tourist ‘party town’

A newspaper in New Zealand has taken a stance against drunk drivers by printing their names on its front page, in response to what it calls an “epidemic” of the crime.

The Mountain Scene is a weekly newspaper for the small but booming South Island town of Queenstown, which has about 30,000 permanent residents and up to two million tourists every year.

On Thursday the names of 100 people convicted of drink driving in the first six months of the year were printed – taking over the entire front-page – in the hope that naming and shaming offenders would tackle the ballooning figures.

“Around New Zealand drink-driving rates have been declining, but in Queenstown they are still going up,” says David Williams, the editor of Mountain Scene. “There are horrendous levels of drink-driving here and it is something that has always been in the background. We need to talk about this problem, so our paper has said ‘enough is enough’ and decided to take a stand.”

Williams plans to publish the names of convicted drunk drivers on the front page for the rest of the year, even though he has already had irate phone calls from locals.

“We have been lambasted as thoughtless and arrogant, that we should be thinking about the children of these people … on the other side there have been a lot of strong comments in favour,” said Williams.

“It is our stand and we are willing to defend it. If it deters one drunk person from getting in their car because they don’t want to be on the front page then we have had a win.”

On the paper’s Facebook page people variously praised and ridiculed the new campaign. “Are you absolutely kidding me?” wrote Jane Guy. “What about their children ffs mountain scene. Yeah brilliant let’s SHAME people into changing behaviour. Because that’s worked the world over.”

“Well done Mountain Scene, awesome idea!” wrote Dugi Anderson. “If you drink and drive you obviously don’t care much about other people’s lives. People need to be shamed, it’s gone on too long.”

Williams said multiple issues fed into Queenstown’s high rate of drink drinking but significant factors included the growing population (including a lot of young people), expensive taxis (between NZ$50-100 – or £29-£57 – for a 15-minute trip) and the perception of Queenstown as a hedonistic party town.

Hine Marchand, a community worker at the Salvation Army, said counselling Queenstown’s heavy drinkers and alcoholics took up a “huge” amount of her time.

With 60 bars and liquor stores in the compact centre of town and drink specials every night of the week, the full-throttle party lifestyle can rapidly tip vulnerable people over the edge, Marchand said.

“We have a lot of drinking problems here. If you want to sit in the court, you will find 90% of the problems are drinking issues. People are excited to be in Queenstown because it is viewed as a party town and they’ll prioritise drink above everything else.”