WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A newspaper in a busy New Zealand resort town has decided to take a stand against drunken driving by filling its front page with the names, ages and alcohol readings for about 100 people convicted of the offense this year.
Queenstown's breathtaking scenery, adventure sports and skiing have made it a must-see destination for millions of tourists visiting New Zealand, but its vibrant nightlife has also contributed to what some describe as an epidemic of drunken driving.
Convictions have fallen by one-third across New Zealand over the past five years, but they've risen in Queenstown, according to the Mountain Scene, which put the offenders on its cover of this week's edition. With about 100 names, there was no room on the page for other stories.
Editor David Williams said the paper will continue to name and shame people on the front page for the rest of the year as the convictions roll in the district of about 30,000 people.
He said tourism growth and a building boom were bringing more people into the town. He said it was disappointing to see so many young people getting convicted and that he hoped the newspaper's campaign would help change behavior.
"For some people, it is a party town," he said. "But partying doesn't mean you get into your car at the end of the night. There are plenty of taxi services. There is no excuse."
He said the start of the campaign coincided with the sentencing of a man to more than two years in prison after he lost control of his car while drunk and hit and injured a woman on the sidewalk.
Williams said there have been strong reactions both for and against the campaign.
That was reflected on the paper's Facebook page. One commenter wrote: "Are you absolutely kidding me? What about their children," while another said: "would you prefer a list of those who have been harmed or killed by these totally irresponsible people."
Queenstown's Mayor Jim Boult said he thought it was good the media was taking a proactive approach.
"My personal view is that anyone who drives after too much to drink is a criminal," he said.
The campaign by the Mountain Scene, which prints about 16,500 free copies each week, harks back to the days when newspapers gave more prominent coverage to small court cases like divorces. Williams said the newspaper has five reporters, including himself.
Queenstown is one of the country's most popular tourist spots, attracting more than 2 million visitors each year.
New Zealand road deaths have been trending down over the past three decades but still remain a significant problem. Statistics indicate the nation ranks eighth-worst among developed nations for the number of road deaths as a percentage of the overall population.