Skip to main content

Small town, big arches: Why one Australian town is fighting McDonald's

By Sarah Brown, CNN
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
A proposal by McDonald's to open a restaurant in the town of Tecoma near Melbourne, Australia, has sparked protests, as seen in <a href='http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-948093'>these images</a> by iReporter and campaigner Garry Muratore. A proposal by McDonald's to open a restaurant in the town of Tecoma near Melbourne, Australia, has sparked protests, as seen in these images by iReporter and campaigner Garry Muratore.
HIDE CAPTION
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
Australian town battles McDonald's
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Small town near Melbourne, Australia, has fought McDonald's plans for two years
  • Locals cite environmental, crime concerns over proposed site of new restaurant
  • McDonald's says it has been "diligent" in addressing concerns of community

(CNN) -- It seems that in at least one part of the world, the golden arches have lost a little luster.

The reason lies in a proposal by U.S.-based fast food giant McDonald's to build a restaurant in Tecoma, a small Australian town in the lush foothills of the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne.

The corporation's move has sparked a two-year battle with locals, who say they resent the influx of an international restaurant chain and feel that the restaurant will spoil an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Under the banner "No Maccas in Tecoma," residents of the town of 2,000 have held several protests against the proposed restaurant, such as the one depicted in this iReport in early March, shot by Tim Smith and sent in by resident Kerry Furnell.

Why such anger over one burger joint? The reasons are manifold, says campaigner Garry Muratore.

iReport: Tecoma says no to McDonald's

"For me, personally, I will be living only 400 meters from the proposed development, so the issues were litter and traffic," he said.

"For young families, it is the fact that it will be built almost opposite a primary school and kindergarten. For the local doctors, it's about health, while others are concerned it will be only 800 meters from a national park."

McDonald's, which says it has kept in regular contact with the local media, community and interested parties over the restaurant plans, has 780 restaurants across Australia, employing about 85,000 people. Amongst the values listed on its website is the promise "we give back to our communities."

A spokeswoman for McDonald's said in a statement that it had been "diligent" in addressing concerns of the community, altering the external design of the restaurant to reflect "the aesthetic of the area" and consulting third-party traffic engineers to ensure minimal impact.

Furnell said that the Dandenong Ranges were an iconic place for Australians and that many were "horrified" McDonald's could think such a development would be appropriate.

She also said increased traffic, vandalism and crime might affect her children.

"The presence of a 24-hour restaurant will mean (an) increase of littering, vandalism and worse and the leaving of items such as used condoms or broken bottles, meaning children are more likely to be injured or harmed in some way," she said.

For a small campaign, its reach has been extraordinary. Campaigners have been quick to engage in a PR war, harnessing the power of social media, developing a website punningly titled Burger Off to promote their cause and creating a Facebook page with almost 6,000 likes.

More than 75 local volunteers have also pitched in, with one academic spending eight weeks wading through three years worth of local newspapers in the state library to tally up incidents of crime purportedly involving McDonald's restaurants.

McDonald's changes its name to "Maccas" in some Australian restaurants

Others have helped with fundraising, developed contacts with similar campaigns across Australia or attended peaceful occupations of the proposed site, where a community garden was built.

In February, protesters held a garden gnome "invasion" of the McDonald's headquarters in Collingwood, a Melbourne suburb, where hundreds of the garden ornaments were placed on the office steps.

But despite an increasingly fraught battle on both sides, campaigners have stressed that it is the corporation and its franchise holders they have an issue with, not staffers, who they say are just doing their job.

What they are angry about is what they describe as a lack of dialogue.

"(McDonald's) say they look forward to engaging with us, so we say come and meet, and they won't return our calls," Muratore said. "They speak with both sides of their mouth."

The McDonald's statement said the company was "proud to contribute to the local community everywhere we operate" through creating jobs, offering training opportunities and providing financial benefits to local businesses and sporting clubs through sponsorships.

"We have absolutely followed established legal processes to ensure that the restaurant is afforded the same rights and privileges as any other business looking to settle in the area," the spokeswoman said.

It is not the first time such a burger battle has been fought on Australian soil. In 2011, a proposal by McDonald's to build a fourth restaurant in Port Macquarie, north of Sydney, was rejected by the Land and Environment Court, local media reported.

Residents had argued that the site was in a residential area and was an environmental concern.

In Tecoma, after councilors initially rejected the plan, McDonald's appealed to a planning court. In September, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found in favor of McDonald's, and the Tecoma campaigners say they do not have the funds to take the case to the Supreme Court.

After months of court battles, site occupations, meetings, allegations and counterallegations, the original McDonald's franchisee backed out of the project this month.

A new one has stepped in, but the small success has emboldened the protesters, who feel that victory in this battle could lead to winning the overall war.

"It's a case of dollars over democracy, and that's the heart of any issue that involves communities and large businesses," Muratore said.

"Our community is not a cookie-cutter suburb; it's unique. All those on the campaign want the same: We don't want a multinational fast food outlet."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 1028 GMT (1828 HKT)
The missing AirAsia jet probably crashed into the sea, Indonesia's top rescue official said Monday, citing radar data from the plane's last contact.
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 0850 GMT (1650 HKT)
Here are four ways the two incidents appear to differ.
December 29, 2014 -- Updated 1031 GMT (1831 HKT)
Hundreds of passengers have endured a freezing night on a ferry, more than 24 hours after a fire broke out on the vessel in the Adriatic Sea.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist and fatherof the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT