Daz for Queenstown sheriff

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A Queenstowner bragging about throwing an inept tourist driver’s keys in Lake Wakatipu is getting plenty of online support.

As frustration mounts nationally about dangerous and deadly driving by foreign visitors, local photographer and film location scout Daz Caulton, in a recent Facebook post, says it won’t be long till one of “our crew is going to be hit on the [road to Glenorchy]”.

Caulton urges people to report dangerous driving by phoning the *555 hotline: “I had four tourists the other day crossing the middle line all the way to GY – unreal. I stopped an Indian guy that crossed the line right to the other side of the road about 10 times. Got out of my car, pulled his keys out of the ignition – and chucked them in the lake,” Caulton posted last month.

Caulton’s claimed actions drew plenty of support – fellow Queenstowner and Ican Models owner Tracey Cameron posted: “I’ve always said I’ll do the same in the [Kawarau] gorge. Demand to see their licence and throw the keys in the river. Shockers. No clue.”

Mark McIntyre posts Caulton should “be the goddamn sheriff”. 

Mark Gillings added: “I almost ran into the back of a family stopped in the middle of Gorge Road the other day – they were lost and reading a map!”

The comments were added to a friend’s post highlighting South Canterbury nine-year-old Sean Roberts’ petition and plea for laws requiring tourist drivers to pass a test before being let loose on Kiwi roads. Roberts’ dad was on a motorcycle when killed by a foreign student who crossed a Lindis Pass centre line in November, 2012.

Pressure has been mounting on the Government to do something about foreign drivers after a string of bad accidents.

Two of last weekend’s fatal road crashes involved tourists – one driving a campervan that allegedly crossed the centre line and killed an Auckland woman in the Coromandel. In the other, a driver allegedly ran a stop sign in Canterbury and Sumner woman Sally Summerfield, her daughter Ella and Ella’s friend Abigail Hone – both 12 – were killed.

Locally, three people were seriously injured in March when an SUV driven by an Israeli crossed the centre line and collided with a sedan at Gibbston. The 60-year-old driver admitted six careless driving charges, was fined $1000 and had to pay $1000 to each victim.

On March 26, two Singaporean tourists were flown to Dunedin Hospital after their rental vehicle hit a tree on the Glenorchy-Paradise Road. And on Waitangi Day, a Chinese man crashed into Queenstown Playcentre’s playground after confusing the accelerator and the brake.

Assistant commissioner of road policing Dave Cliff this week told The New Zealand Herald fewer than two per cent of fatal crashes involved overseas drivers but in popular tourist areas such as Queenstown it rose to 25 per cent.

Prime Minister John Key – also the Tourism Minister – tells The Herald he doesn’t believe laws need tightened for tourists.

“If you look at the accident rate of tourists who drive in NZ versus NZers themselves, it’s pretty consistent. They’re about the same rate per capita.

“It’s a good thing the rental companies and airlines are starting to play a bigger role, and I think the Government just needs to work alongside them.”

On the local front, a governance group – including Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden, the NZ Transport Agency and police – aims to improve tourist road safety and plans to meet this month.

The group hopes to have an action plan by the end of the year including aware-ness campaigns and working with rental car companies to encourage “a conversation” between staff and foreigners.