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Would a McDonalds in this town be all downside?

Residents of ex-urban Tecoma are fiercely resisting a proposed McDonalds restaurant which they fear will destroy the character of their village. But would a McDonalds be all downside?

Site of proposed McDonalds restaurant in Tecoma, Dandenong Ranges (click to look around in Google Streetview)

The township of Tecoma on the outskirts of Melbourne has been battling against the prospect of a new 24 hour McDonalds franchise in their village since 2011. Yarra Ranges Shire Council received over 1,300 objections to the proposed restaurant. A record 650 residents attended the Council meeting to consider the company’s application.

According to community group burgeroff.org, the objections raised concerns relating to:

traffic, litter, noise, crime, impact on existing local businesses, locality opposite a Primary and Pre School, proximity within 1 kilometre of a National Park, the development not befitting the character of the Hills, the demolition of the historic Hazel Vale Dairy building which currently resides at the proposed site, local amenity issues and the fact that there are no 24 hour fast food outlets with drive-thrus in the entire Dandenong Ranges.

Council did what local government often does with hot issues like this and refused the application notwithstanding that a convenience restaurant is a permissible use of the land under the Planning Scheme without a permit (a permit is required to develop the land, though).

McDonalds appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) which found the proposal conformed to the Planning Scheme and set aside Council’s decision. VCAT found (McDonalds P/L vs Yarra Ranges SC) that many of the potential adverse outcomes identified by community members weren’t relevant planning considerations. It concluded that:

The matters that are before us include activation of the Tecoma activity centre as encouraged by policy, integration with the streetscape, building design, landscaping and traffic and parking. We are satisfied that this proposal complies with the Scheme. It would be a contemporary and well designed building that would fit well into the streetscape. It would provide additional landscaping consistent with the vegetation in the locality. We find that the location and operation of its access, loading bay and car parking areas would be satisfactory. Its signage and illumination can be designed to reflect the Tecoma streetscape and night time character. In general, it provides local employment opportunities, supports tourism and broadens the business mix in the centre, as encouraged by policy.

Council decided it wouldn’t take the matter any further. However residents still feel very strongly about the prospect of a McDonalds in their neighbourhood and have occupied the site to prevent construction starting. They’ve reportedly enlisted the support of unions.

Here’s a remarkably passionate and committed letter from Tecoma resident Karl Williams published in The Age earlier this month:

I have just spent two days and nights atop the Tecoma buildings earmarked for demolition by McDonald’s, defying police orders to come down. In my 57 years, I’ve never dreamt of breaking the law and nor has my wife, who accompanied me.

Outrage can be a wonderfully motivating urge to action. About 92 per cent of locals are opposed to the outlet, mainly because of the effect it will have on the leafy, sleepy, hills town character that attracted us to move here. Our anger results from the failure of our democratic system of government to allow citizens to engage in a just legal contest against wealthy corporate interests.

McDonald’s has treated council’s unanimous rejection of its plan as a minor nuisance, knowing that its legal battalion and expert witnesses can overwhelm any opposition at VCAT. We had to come down for pressing family reasons, but are definitely returning. Sometimes you have to break the law to change the law.

That the prospect of a fast food restaurant could provoke a resident to consider “breaking the law to change the law” suggests this isn’t just about, or even primarily about, traditional planning considerations. It’s the sort of sentiment usually associated with matters of high principle.

Notwithstanding the various instrumental objections raised by residents (and rejected by VCAT), I think this is mostly about the idea of a chain fast food restaurant in a “leafy, sleepy” place like Tecoma. Residents didn’t think they were signing up to the corporate and consumerist values associated with McDonalds when they chose to settle in this bucolic ex-urb in the charming Dandenong Ranges.

The media has elected to focus on the protest dimension, but there are other matters relevant to this debate. For example, what about the employment, tourism and activity centre activation benefits cited by VCAT? Would a sympathetically designed McDonalds in the main street really put the character of Tecoma at risk? Did the large BP servo across the road from the proposed site generate the same level of opposition? How do residents feel about Tecoma Fish and Chips?

It’s also likely there’re people in the region who don’t have the same visceral negative reaction to the idea of a McDonalds. They might feel they’d benefit from a more accessible  outlet.

The company has presumably done the research to establish there’s sufficient demand for its products to support a 24 hour operation. The nearest existing McDonalds is a considerable distance away at Ferntree Gully, about 6 km closer to the city along the Burwood Hwy.

McDonalds is unappealing to some people but for others it offers a very attractive package in terms of service, convenience and value for money.

The latter group might be less sophisticated on average than those opposing the proposal and they might be less able to afford alternatives, but I can’t see any reason why their interests shouldn’t be given the same regard.

Regular consumption of fast food is unhealthy and some reckon that’s sufficient grounds to oppose opening further fast food outlets. Obesity and diabetes are major national health issues, however they should be tackled in ways that directly address all unhealthy foods, not just that offered by some businesses in some locations.

There are already many McDonalds franchises in metropolitan Melbourne (see map) not to mention myriad other fast food outlets (even food carts!). Preventing further ones opening on health policy grounds risks charges of discrimination, ignoring consumer choice, effectively subsidising existing food and snack businesses, and possibly promoting car travel. If done in isolation it would almost certainly be ineffective.

There’s more than one way of looking at issues like this and they all need to be considered.

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  • 1
    hk
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Lots of fat in the food for thought article. Some of us are still wondering why McDonalds and Starbucks eventually closed their operating businesses in Lygon Street Carlton.

    Social and business focus by the real controllers in the Carlton community?

    Maybe the citizens of Tecoma should consult the business controllers of Carlton and learn from their tactics to achieve what they believe brings net community benefit.

    Btw there are other unique and special communities, such as Lorne, that are so far untouched by by shop front fast food chain outlets.

  • 2
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I’m happy to let democracy decide this – if 92% of the residents truly did feel strongly that a McDonald’s in their township was unwanted, then they should elect a council that will ensure the development doesn’t go ahead – e.g. by placing enough special requirements on it that McDonald’s ultimately decides it to be unprofitable. But it is curious that they really think a 24hr store would be a viable business proposition, given that for a fair percentage of those hours only locals are going to be likely patrons. FWIW, while I virtually never eat McDonald’s, I have to say there’s been at least one occasion I was grateful for their extended hours, when I arrived in a town in the U.S. rather late and literally nothing else in the area was open (and I have to confess the burger I had was quite palatable, certainly no worse than many more expensive burgers I’ve had elsewhere).

  • 3
    Michael Nolan
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it is indeed about ‘the idea of a chain fast food restaurant in a “leafy, sleepy” place like Tecoma’. It is also about the idea that this state’s unelected, blindly pro-development VCAT tribunal can overturn locally elected council decisions, in the face of overwhelming community sentiment. And the idea that once a fast-food chain is approved it will be more difficult to oppose its competitors, and hence Dandenongs residents can look forward to generic strips of multinational pizza, burger and chicken chain outlets. And the idea that ‘consumer choice’ should hardly be our first concern in an already choice-saturated society. And the idea that ‘activation of the Tecoma activity centre’ is linguistic waffle that amounts to one of the world’s most aggressively marketed companies, luring all tourist traffic away from any other enterprise in the tiny strip of shops, who won’t even leave their cars in the process. And the idea that a quiet neighbourhood with no other business of any kind open 24-hours will be improved by the poisonous atmosphere of a fast-food chain outlet at 2am. And the idea that diverting traffic in and out of a drive-though on the corner of a two-lane highway that already bottlenecks at peak times is somehow balanced by the fact that rejecting such a proposal possibly promotes car travel for those who want fast food at all hours. These, and other ideas, play into the community’s objection to this development. Yes, ‘there’s more than one way of looking at issues like this’, but noting that other McDonald’s franchises exist elsewhere, and that rejecting new ones benefits existing businesses, doesn’t amount to a compelling argument in this proposal’s favour.

  • 4
    heywow
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    I work in tourism and I would not take my customers to any McDonalds, let alone one in the Dandenongs – a place that has been famous for tea rooms and guest-houses for over 100 years.

    The residents are right, Maccas is out of character with the area.

  • 5
    Saugoof
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    One the one hand I’m a bit uncomfortable with selectively applying restrictions on some businesses, say a McDonalds versus a local cafe. But that said, I am all for denying them permission to build another outlet there. It’s just that I don’t really have any solid reasons beyond not wanting to have yet another small town homogenised.

    Some years ago I bought a car and crossed the US for a couple of months. Every country town you go to there looks the same. Each has the same fast food chains, the same motel chains, the same supermarkets, the same chain stores, even the same barely localised radio stations. There is no local character and it’s very unusual to find a store, restaurant or motel that isn’t some sort of national or regional chain. The only exception are pubs (market opportunity anyone?).

    My argument for not wanting a McDonalds in Tecoma is simply that even though I’m not a resident, I’d hate for the same thing to happen in Australia, or at least worse than it already has. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a McDonalds, Red Rooster, Nandos or whatever, I’d just prefer being able to be able to go to a town like Tecoma and for there to be somewhat of a surprise in store. Oftentimes companies like McDonalds with their financial and advertising muscle quickly kill off the local competition, so once a chain store like that moves in, it doesn’t take long before the only other stores that can survive are other chain stores.

    One specific argument that I was surprised no one has made (that I heard of anyway) is the smell. The thing that puts me off McDonalds (and even worse, Subway) is the godawful stink that the pester the area with.

  • 6
    Stephen
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    They just don’t want it. Why isn’t that enough?

  • 7
    Liam Mitaxa
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Yes maccas would be a bad thing for the local community and local businesses. sure most local won’t shop there (though many of us will use their toilet) but it is not locals maccas is trying to cash in on as much as tourists coming up to visit the dandenongs e.g. to visit puffing billy grants picknick ground. the location is one of the worst both in terms of traffic flow, planning requirement that require a lot of work. pedestrian traffic flow. light pollution, noise pollution, garbage pollution. the hills are a place that is meant to be a clean space where only tiny ammounts of rubbish are found and infact none should be found in the forest. but as we all know the rubbish from a maccas has about a ten or so kelometer travel radius which means unthinking people or maybe people who just lack self respect will be dumping the toxic plastic rappers and non edible oil soaked packaging out their windows and into the forests. there is also the fact that it is common knowlage that criminal behavour follows maccas. having seen the aditude of some of the few pro maccas crowd i see this criminal behavour as a major consern since for the most part the hills are a quite and nice place one without a lot of criminal activity but i feel this will change. i would have added criminal behavour consurns into my letter of oposition against the original development but criminal behavour does not come under planning.

  • 8
    Moray Taylor
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Is it all downside? I guess if you really want a burger, and you can’t be bothered with the 10minute drive to the next nearest Maccas, I guess that’s an upside for a Maccas in Tecoma. But at what cost?

    The cost of more litter, worse traffic, a building that is hideously out of character for the township of Tecoma.

    However, none of this matters, the people said no, the elected council said no, this should be enough, democracy needs to be respected even if the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges isn’t.

    The problem here is VCAT, you have an unelected body that can (and often does) overturn the wishes of an elected council. When is this is happening, is there a point in voting for our council members? If any decision they make can be overridden?

  • 9
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Stephen if that were really true, I don’t think McDonalds would see it as a viable business opportunity. FWIW, while I certainly agree that I don’t Australia to end up reduced to being a collection of generic chain-store-dominated towns and cities, the only decent way to prevent that is ensure we have a culture of appreciating quality and variety, and a willingness to put in the effort it takes to maintain it at an individual business level – it’s not something yo

  • 10
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    (oops) not something you can hope to maintain by endless applications of local government regulation.

  • 11
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Our protest isn’t about McDonalds per se. Our protest is mainly about protecting the democratic process by which we determine the character and composition of our community. Our local council spent months carefully studying the McDonalds application. They also received an unprecedented number of written objections from our community — over 1,100 of them — and carefully considered the application before finally, unanimously voting to deny it, as is their right and responsibility under planning scheme clause 65.

    McDonalds took the game to a “court” where democracy is irrelevant, where the party who can put on the more expensive show stands the better chance of winning. McDonalds, having the bigger purse, one in that venue. Two people, who are not judges — they’re not even lawyers — who are not elected, but appointed by the governor general, overturned our council’s decision after just a few days of hearings and deliberation.

    Our council considered an appeal to the Vic supreme court, but McDonalds had already threatened to sue for costs should that appeal fail. Afraid of the risk of having to pay perhaps as much as a million dollars or more in the event of such a loss, the council voted against pursuing it further. This was a matter of dollars winning out over democracy, plain and simple.

    This isn’t just about McDonalds and why it may or may not be good for your health or for the community. This is about large corporations circumventing or altogether obviating the democratic process by using unelected, unaccountable decision-making entities such as VCAT. Today it’s about McDonalds in Tecoma. Tomorrow, it could well be about gas drilling or a landfill in YOUR town. THAT is what our fight is really about.

  • 12
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Michael Nolan #3, Moray Taylor #8, Nick Seidenmann #12:

    Blaming VCAT seems unfair. The decision linked to in the article is worth reading (here’s a direct link). It indicates a permit is only required for the development of the land. Operating a fast food restaurant however is permissible in the commercial area of Tecoma as of right under Council’s Planning Scheme. It looks to me like Council, under intense political pressure, duck-shoved the issue off to VCAT.

  • 13
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Planning scheme clause 65 CLEARLY gives the local council the right and responsibility to determine what is acceptable. It even says, explicitly, that just because a permit CAN be issued, doesn’t mean a permit SHOULD or WILL be issued. (emphasis mine.) The Shire of Yarra Ranges Council was well within its legal and policy purview to deny the permit. VCAT should have agreed with that and shown McDonalds the door.

  • 14
    Christine Bailey
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    I am more than happy for McDonalds to come to town. Tecoma has been a dying suburb for a number of years. There has been a lot of mis-information about this issue and I for one have never believed that 9/10 are against. It is a fact that only half of Tecoma was actually surveyed. Also lets not forget that the council did introduce McDonalds to the original propertys owners. And allowed Macca’s to come in by re-zoning that strip shop area.

  • 15
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Nick Seidenmann #13:

    But according to the VCAT decision, you must be talking about the permit needed for the development of the site because a permit isn’t necessary for the use of the site i.e. to carry on a fast food business. Not easy to knock off a proposal solely on the basis of a development permit when the applicant is prepared to be amenable e.g the proposed sign with the Golden Arches logo appears to be considerably smaller and less prominent than the existing sign advertising the Noodle and Pizza cafes.

    Christine Bailey #14:

    Burger.off says that all households in Tecoma were interviewed and 88% of residents (1,085 people) said they were against the proposal. At the 2011 Census there were 1500 residents aged 20 years or more, so the claim doesn’t sound right. More relevant though that Tecoma occupies only a relatively small part of the catchment – see ABS map.

  • 16
    Michael Nolan
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Doesn’t this just give lie to claims that the community concerns are considered? If, after council rejection and overwhelming local opposition, including a huge number of submissions to VCAT against the proposal, the system cannot reject the development, then the system is manifestly only serving business interests.

  • 17
    George Eldon
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    “I think this is mostly about the idea of a chain fast food restaurant in a ‘leafy, sleepy’ place like Tecoma.”

    ‘Ideas’… you mean like democracy? Wasn’t there something in the news recently…Egypt…Algeria, Libya, Turkey, Soviet Union, Baltic states, Poland, East Germany…I forget…

    Anyhow, it’s as much about the reality of what a McDonalds is going to bring to the area at 2am on a Friday & Saturday – that picture is very much not an idea but vomit, broken glass litter, burnouts and police.

    There’s McD five minutes down the road for those who need McD in their life 24×7.

    Here’s another idea: we take some responsibility for our kids at the primary and preschool across the road.

    A little more critical thinking wouldn’t go amiss, but thanks for the article nonetheless.

    Regards

    George

  • 18
    George Eldon
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    So on to the argument “what about the Fish and Chip shop?’

    Is that the same fish n chip shop with a marketing budget of a sandwich board on the pavement vs the millions of McD?

    The same fish in chip shop that has a few people in for lunch and gets quite busy on Friday vs McD doing their damnedest to get you there from preschool to death for breakfast lunch and dinner?

    Sorry are we talking about the same thing?

  • 19
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your reply, Alan.

    There were two conditions that had to be met for McDonalds to build there. Right of use was one, but, that was never in dispute. The other pertained to planning and environment “acceptability”, which was up to the council to assess and determine.

    If you read the VCAT decision it is not decided on any legal grounds, rather, on the basis of the subjective opinion of two people who are not elected and who will bear no consequence stemming from their decision. They repeatedly use the phrase “we find ____ acceptable”. What is “acceptable” to someone who doesn’t live here is not necessarily (and in fact is NOT) acceptable to those of us who do.

    (Speaking of which, I’d like to point out that, based on past conversations in other forums, it has long since been determined that Ms. Bailey and Mr. Eldon do not actually live in or anywhere near Tecoma.)

    Getting back to the subject, absent a permit to build a restaurant, McDonalds still has right of use, including selling the land or donating it to the council as a good will gesture. (It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve done this.)

    Look, if this were some sort of split decision, of if there was an obvious lack of consensus in the community, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. The fact that there was a very clearly expressed resistance to having a Maccas in Tecoma couple with the fact that the council voted unanimously against approving their development permit (with nearly 1000 of us in attendance at the meeting when they did, by the way) establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that it is unwanted and that it is UNACCEPTABLE to us and to the council. That should have been the end of it.

    That VCAT actually agreed to hear the case is remarkable. That two unelected, non-lawyers made a determination of law that overrode the unanimous decision of a duly-elected local council isn’t just wrong; it’s sets a dangerous precedent for the future of democracy in Victoria and Australia. Today this case is about a McDonalds in Tecoma. Tomorrow it will — WILL — be about something truly onerous, perhaps even deadly, in YOUR neighborhood. What’s to stop VCAT from finding, say, a gas-fracking operations “acceptable” in Drouin, or development on top of a landfill known to contain PCBs that are “acceptable”? As of right now … absolutely nothing, Alan. Nothing.

    Keeping the focus on questions like “but what’s really wrong with a McDonalds?” badly misses the point. Please try to see past the instant case, to what the ramifications truly are. This is no slippery-slope argument, Alan. The consequences of the VCAT decision are fact, and other developers and corporate interests are already moving to take full advantage of it. This “win” for McDonalds is a win for any and all who have sufficient money to override the democratic voice of the people.

  • 20
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    ERRATUM: Didn’t mean to include George Eldon in with the non-Tecomans.

  • 21
    Highriser
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    While the 92% figure may be dubious, does it matter? It is clearly a very high number of people who oppose the development. Why shouldn’t the people of Tecoma decide through their local council, what development occurs in their town? They will wear the supposed negatives if the development does not go ahead, and I doubt there will be much in the way of positives should the development go ahead. As for a sympathetically designed McDonalds, where? I have never seen one. The less sophisticated? Patronising to them and rather John Howard politicking, setting supposed working people against supposed intellectuals and the artistic.

    The real issue is the developers’ friend VCAT, constantly goes against the wishes of local people. In is not about legalities, permits, guidelines etc. The people of Tecoma don’t want it. Full stop. How many objections does it take?

    I wish the people of Tecoma well in their battle, and they can win if they have the tenacity.

  • 22
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    Highriser #21:

    Many planning issues involve conflicts between the interests of both local and wider communities. For example, opposition from existing residents to housing developments like this one in Armadale, this one in Bundoora, and this one in Ivanhoe, ultimately have an impact on regional housing supply and affordability. Perhaps the Tecoma case is an exception, but in many cases simply doing what the local community wants also imposes costs on others. That doesn’t mean the local view shouldn’t prevail, but the incidence of costs needs to be taken into account.

    And FYI there are marked geographical differences by income/education across cities. The same pattern is frequently reflected in the winners and losers from planning decisions. These sorts of differences are a central fact about cities.

  • 23
    Christine Bailey
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    1230 people where surveyed. That’s a fact from the Anti’s page. Jason from the Antis site admitted that in a comment of which I have copied. He was also one of the 15 surveyers that carried out that door knock. 2100 or there abouts is the population of Tecoma. Thats about 58% of Tecoma that was actually asked the question. There are over 30,000 residents with-in a 5k radius.Fact: Council and TVAG knew McDonalds where sniffing around over 2 years ago as I did.The boat has sailed, it’s over, done and dusted.

  • 24
    David J Richardson
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    As someone who attended the primary school opposite, a few decades back… Tecoma was slow to embrace their current status as quaint TouristVille. I don’t recognise it nowadays.

  • 25
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Planning issues can indeed become complex and conflicts over whether and how to proceed can and do arise. This is why it took our (SYRC) council months to arrive at its decision, not just days. During this time they carefully considered all factors, weighed not just the community’s objections but the putative costs and benefits.

    To that last point I’d like to say that McDonalds has NEVER actually released any data that backs up their claims regarding economic benefit to our (or any) area. To be able to truly assess this we must know expenditures for consumables AND the sources thereof, for starters. We also need to know how much of what the franchise fee is going not just to McDonalds Australia, but to the American parent corporation, too. These are monies that are unequivocally flowing OUT of Tecoma, OUT of Victoria, and OUT of Australia. As for employment opportunities, we can’t know what towns will supply Maccas staffing needs, but the fact that it is within 1/2 km of a train station means that they can (and likely will) come from outside of Tecoma. Moreover, their proposed staffing assumes a full complement of counter staff (cashiers), however, Maccas is already replacing these workers with automated, touch-screen self-service ordering stations.

    Any way you look at it, their claims to providing a town with economic benefit are, at best, not the whole “truth”.

  • 26
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Someone sent me this link, presumably to show that there’s also a group in favour of the McDonalds in Tecoma. I’m passing it on for information; make of it what you will.

  • 27
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 16, 2013 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Alan. We’re aware of this group. None of them live in (or will admit to living in) Tecoma. Having “skin in the game” matters, I think you’ll agree. Aside from that, it’s mostly vitriolic, ad hominem spew with a generous sprinkling of whinging over not being able to grab a burger at 2 AM after getting totally pissed with their mates.

  • 28
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Additionally, ask yourself this: If there is asuch widespread support for McDonalds as is claimed by these proponents, where is THEIR march (we had over 3000 come out and march from Belgrave to Tecoma in protest against Maccas)? Where is their presence? We have consistent and constant peaceful protest and picket. The pro-Maccas folks, with few exceptions, express their views with epithets, burn-outs in front of the picket site, shouts of “get a job!” (we all have jobs, btw, thanks) or expletives and rude gestures at us as they speed by the site.

    The apparently large presence they maintain on facebook is an illusion, created using one or more software packages designed for marketing to create and manage dozens or hundreds of pseudo-identities. Look in other discussion forums and you’ll find no more than perhaps a dozen — all the same names, including Ms. Bailey, above.

    The pro-Maccas had — and still have — every opportunity to organise the same sorts of public demonstrations. The reasons they haven’t come down to just two: either they’re too lazy and can’t be buggered, or there simply aren’t all that many in favor of having it as they claim.

  • 29
    Austin M
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    So from what I can read Maccas is developing a commercial block to an accepted use under the councils planning scheme. How would residents feel if they went and purchased a house block only to be told by council that oh no you can’t build a house on that block because 90% of the people in the street would much prefer the block remained vacant? You would rightly be outraged at the hypocrisy.
    Using land for its prescribed use is hardly a slippery slope to democratic ruin. I understand that some people in the hills may find the encroachment of a consumerist international food conglomerate irreconcilable with their personal ideals however this doesn’t give them any more right to dictate how someone else develops their own property within the prescribed use. Locals may have helped inform the development approach (i.e. signage) however council should have been very clear with locals that there was no right to outright refuse the development as it complied with the planning scheme. When the land was zoned and the planning scheme adopted was the opportunity to have the democratic debate about permissible uses and it sounds like that ship sailed a long time ago.
    As for the pro-maccas camp I assume they feel they will get their desired outcome regardless of a rally and thus feel little need to waste their time with a public demonstration (I also think they are less likely to be represented by highly passionate locals that would rally).

  • 30
    Person Ordinary
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Corporate property rights are a greater good than preserving quality of life of communities? That a thinking, feeling human being can express this is very, very sad.

  • 31
    Austin M
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    No the quality of life and appropriate development for the town and its community was decided with the zoning of the town. The key here is “zoning” is when the decision is made about the type of appropriate land use. Surely the property owner has the right to choose the type of business within the zoning allowances that it would like to run. Just as you can chose the type of house on your block within the zoning allowances.
    The alternate is the community decide on each occasion the type, style, size and even if you can have a house on your appropriately zoned property, hardly a fair outcome. What do you do when they decide against approval knowing allowing you to build a house will negatively affect their quality of life, or maybe they think a 1bedroom cottage is appropriate for your large family?
    This is not about commercial property rights. This is about democratic freedom of everyone to use their property within set zoning rules laid out by the community for everyone to follow.

  • 32
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    At the risk of unleashing a s**tstorm I am going to say this. I live in the hills and used to live quite close to the proposed site of the new Maccas. I frequent a number of the shops in that strip so I know the area well. It is by far the ugliest section of Burwood Highway for many, many miles. Tenancy rates in those shops rarely climb above 50% and this historic ‘Hazel vale Dairy’ or whatever nonsense just seems like something pulled from the archives to give the protest heritage currency. Last year it was a recycled vintage clothes shop that leaked when it rained. If you cross over the lights directly in front of the primary school you can purchase fish and chips, lash out on a deep-fried mars bar, charcoal chicken, and all sorts of sweets and sugary drinks from the milk bar. It’s hard for teenagers to find work on the mountain and given that there is already a Maccas in Ferntree Gully I can’t see how it’s going to cause to much of an increase in traffic. Or litter. I imagine that they will provide bins!

  • 33
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    You understand incorrectly, Austin. The council REJECTIED the permit. VCAT overruled them. McDonalds threatened to sue our council for damages and costs if they took the matter further, so the council backed down. They never approved ANYTHING of the sort.

  • 34
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    There’s no “storm”, LadyStardust64. You don’t live in Tecoma, and you just don’t get it. Really nothing more to be said that hasn’t already been said. All the best.

  • 35
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    But I did live in Tecoma. And now I still go and hire DVD’s from DVD Destination, buy clothes from Wild Rose and turtle pellets from the Reptile shop, and would like to be still getting my dog clipped at the groomers but it shut down. And as of this morning when I was once again spending money in Tecoma, that space is still vacant!

  • 36
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    A couple of weeks ago, while buying something at a shop in Tecoma, I overheard a conversation with a shop-owner and a friend/customer. They said they didn’t feel they could speak out against the protesters as they might be ‘marked’ as a non-supporter. Tecoma has a shopping strip, that is an existing fact, but if you have a problem with trade in the area then that’s something quite different, isn’t it.

  • 37
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, we’re fighting for those traders, too — misinformed though they may be.

    McDonalds won’t improve their business. McDonalds is on record stating that they don’t expect business to come from the locals, but from the surrounding area with, mainly, a 5 km radius. They are interested in drive-through traffic, mainly; not foot traffic, which is what the local shops depend on. McDonalds will kill their business. We actively PROMOTE those businesses. If you actually lived in Tecoma, or had any real interaction with the community here you’d know this. But, you don’t. You have no investment here, and no real interest, nor will you suffer any consequence from having a McDonalds, here.

    Well, maybe some consequence; those shops you (and we) like would be more likely to fold up and you’d have to go elsewhere. For those of us who live here, who have homes and ties to the community, going elsewhere is a great deal more than an inconvenience.

  • 38
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I think that drive-throughs should be banned on anti-obesity grounds. They encourage the consumption of unhealthy food, by making it easier than other options, encourage driving, by making using the car to make the purchase easier and by making both the outlet itself and the street outside far less pedestrian friendly, and they reduce the human physical activity needed to get the food.

  • 39
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Well I am a drive though traffic to Tecoma shops so I guess I am an anomaly.

  • 40
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    And lets be honest, a 5km radius in the hills is like a trip around the corner in an inner-city suburb. Very few people that live in the hills have the luxury of footing it to their local shops.

  • 41
    Austin M
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Nick I am saying the council incorrectly rejected the permit and that is why they got overturned at VCAT. They have zoned the land for commercial uses which under the planning scheme permitted use as convenience outlet. Councils only business was about the detailed elements of the application an outright rejection of the application was unjust. As I have tried to state it would be like you putting in an application to build a house on a residential block and council just saying outright NO (not saying tweak this and change that to meet with our requirements and regulations for houses). Council can’t take away owners rights to use land for a prescribed use and they were right to not go to the supreme court as they would have likely lost there also.
    The only thing council could have done is a planning scheme amendment (PSA) to either change the lands zoning or its prescribed use. If the council didn’t want this type of commercial use they should have done a PSA and preferably long before people start submitting planning permits.

  • 42
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    39

    I was talking about fast food drive-throughs, where the food is bought from in the car.

  • 43
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Austin M #41:

    Austin, do you have any thoughts on how a Council that wanted to be sure it got no chain fast food restaurants in a particular commercial area would word the Planning Scheme?

  • 44
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    For the record I am neither pro nor anti Maccas. I have lived in the hills for more than a decade and have two teenagers that have gone through primary and high-school in the area. I know first hand that it is not easy for kids to find casual work without having to travel for miles. Travel time that then eats into the time they can spend on their studies. Belgrave and Monbulk both have Subway franchises, but I can’t recall any sort of protest over those? To me this feels like a protest against one company, and the others things have been put up as distracters.

  • 45
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Austin, you should talk to people who have actually undertaken home construction in Tecoma. The council can — and DOES — veto residential built-form.

    I’d suggest you take a look at clause 65 of the planning scheme as it was written for the Shire of Yarra Ranges Council (SYRC.) The scheme itself is drafted at state level, but certain clauses — including this one — are tailored for specific, local councils. Here’s a link: http://planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au/aavpp/65.pdf

  • 46
    G Neogy
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    This is about Democracy. As a ratepayer in Tecoma I do not want my Council rates to be spent on cleaning up the mess that Mcdonalds will generate. Did you know that Maccas accounts for 30% of all litter in the UK (Keep Britain Tidy stats)?

    If only jobs at Maccas were the solution to unemployment, we could open one at every street corner (wait… thats what they intend to do! Excellent – we’re saved!!)
    Alan – stats released by the Dept of Industry reveal that 70% of all jobs in the private sector come from SMEs. SMEs (<20 employees) also create the same number of retail jobs as those employing 200+. Tecoma needs SMEs. Maccas will not create any NEW jobs (which is a key point that is often missed). In fact, Maccas has already put 2 successful food outlets out of business at this site – so much for their claim about "helping" and being "sympathetic". I want choice – not Maccas. I voted No to Mcdonalds.

  • 47
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Well, then, LadyStardust64, it is clear that you don’t fully appreciate the larger issues involved. This is about more than just “one company”. This is about how a company, contrary to its purported desire to have the community “trust” it, uses its wealth to overpower the wishes of that community so that it can muscle its way in where it is so clearly unwanted. McDonalds’ image is one of clowns and bright colors and “coolness”, hipness, &c, all of which masks the avaricious corporate machine that it really is. Draw back that facade and you get a picture that is no different from any other big money corporation such as BHP, Goldman-Sachs, or Monsanto. (By the way, I had a specific reason for citing those three as examples. Can you guess why?)

    Our fight is to make sure that people and their communities come FIRST and that corporate profit must come second to the health, and well-being of people and their right to determine the character and composition of their own communities.

  • 48
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Ok. So you don’t shop at Belgrave Woolworths then?

  • 49
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    Nick don’t get me wrong. I really admire your passion on this issue. I wish more people would stand up for things that they really believed in and lived by. I just feel that this particular situation is too targeted and specific. It has to be all or nothing. If Maccas can’t come then I want to see you outside blocking the doors to Woolies. You can’t pick and choose which corporate machines you target.

  • 50
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    44

    Are the Subways 24 hour and drive through?

  • 51
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Also about 44

    Work for people not in study should be prioritised. Junior wage rates and other reduced costs for employing under 18s should be scrapped. Long-term unemployment is a serious problem and people, particularly children, who are studying full times should not need jobs.

  • 52
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    They are not.

  • 53
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Actually, no, I don’t shop there, if I can help it. I try to by from local merchants, favoring them over large chains — EVEN when the local’s price is higher. You see, I believe there’s a hidden cost to my community when I don’t buy local, a cost that exceeds the few pennies (or dollars) I may save buying from a chain. I’d rather put that back into my community. It’s a good, solid investment. Good for business(es). Good for us.

    McDonalds, btw, likes to tout the economic benefits it brings to the community. In fact, it’s all talk, but little or no information. What they won’t tell you is that most of their consumables are purchased from elsewhere in Victoria, and most of their meat — the main thing they sell (beef and chicken) comes from NSW. Furthermore, they’re headquartered in Sydney, so franchise fees go their, as well as to the US parent company.

    And jobs for the kids? Forget about it. Maccas is replacing people with automated ordering stations. Those jobs will amount to cleain-up duty and flipping burgers and running the french-fry and shake machines. The “skills” they teach won’t come close to what other local employers can offer, and the wages will be lower, too. Or, haven’t you seen how Maccas gets around minimum wage laws, yet?

  • 54
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Tom, that’s awesome rhetoric but teenagers still need work.

  • 55
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Sorry Nick, but you are wrong. I know someone that has just got a job at Maccas in Boronia. It’s not the best job in the world but it’s a start. And they are going to pay for him to do management training, the Certs 1-IV (whatever they are). Ask anyone in the business world what they think of seeing Maccas Management training on a CV and it is a good thing.

  • 56
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    And if you can find me a local that makes toilet paper and tissues, I’d be grateful. Seriously dude, a little heavy handed on that one.

  • 57
    G Neogy
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Ladystardust64 – as I recall, a proposal for a Coles on a nearby site (or was it the same) was opposed by Tecoma residents, and did not proceed. We need to compare apples here – every McDonalds generates a crap-load of litter, Woolies… hmmm. Do you really want your council rates to be spent on cleaning up Maccas mess (since that is the job of the Council – not Maccas)?

  • 58
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for helping me make my point — they have to source from OUTSIDE the area for many things, not just meat and potatoes.

    As for those ordering stations, I didn’t say they’re already here. But, they’re on their way. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dC6eDmpKN8&feature=related

    (Was that light-handed enough, m’lady? :) )

  • 59
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    56

    The trend to replace people with machines has been going since the industrial revolution. It has delivered the biggest rise in living standards in human history.

  • 60
    Austin M
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I imagine there are many things the council could have put in their planning scheme to make it very difficult for a fast food outlet in this area.
    Some kind of built form overlay could be a good starting point like a design development overlay for the Dandenong Ranges Area. In this overlay I believe they can reference local planning policies which are to be complied with. Then council would need to draw up appropriate local planning policies (they could restrict things like drive throughs, parking provision, signage, venue seating capacity, aesthetic of buildings, continuous hours of operation, high patron turnover business etc.). It might be a stretch but they may have even been able to ban large franchise and outlet chains also arguing they wanted to keep a local feel to all businesses in the region protecting the important tourist image of the area as quaint hillside villages and B+Bs (the question is then how you deal with IGAs, BPs etc. but some exemptions could be made or it may only apply to new developments etc.). The effectiveness of each individual measure on its own may be questionable but combined together it would represent a comprehensive set of requirements which severely limit the ability for what the council I assume sees as unsupported proposed developments.
    45 there is a good chance that like maccas plans in the area there are house development plans in the area that are also wrongly being knocked back by council. The easiest thing in the world to say is No and id hazard that the shire in question is closer to a preservation side of the development spectrum from the setout.

  • 61
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    What point did I help you make exactly? Not that I mind.

  • 62
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Care to back that up with something remotely resembling “fact”, Tom?

  • 63
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I think Tom’s point is correct at a macro level. We (Australians), generally don’t have 8yo’s working the factory floor. And don’t even go to Bangladesh cos that’s not the point of this discussion.

  • 64
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    I think Tom’s point is conjecture. Absent supporting (valid) information, it’s meaningless.

    It’s also irrelevant. The point being discussed was McDonalds’ claim that they provide jobs and training. In fact, the number of such jobs is shrinking. Even if you allow his point, for the sake of argument, it still supports the fact that McDonalds is trying to shrink the amount of labor per hour it must “buy”, to reduce costs and therefore increase profits.

  • 65
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    So you have chosen to totally ignore the actual fact (not conjecture) re employment that I stated?

  • 66
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    64

    Do you buy all your clothes from local hand weavers? Is all the grain you eat hand harvested?

    If not you cannot complain about mechanisation.

  • 67
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    All business’s look to reduce costs and increase profits. McDonalds are not leading the pack on that one. And McDonalds does provide training. Sorry but they do. It may not meet with your ideal of what constitutes a worthwhile job, nor mine even to be frank, but tell me how at the end of the day it’s different to when a 16yo throws a bag of pre-cut potatoes into the fryer at the local fish and chipper? I would bet that the potatoes used at Tecoma Fish and Chips are not locally grown.

  • 68
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    G Neogy. I had forgotten about that proposal, and that was when I was actually living in Tecoma. My personal objection to that was that the area was already well serviced by supermarkets. From the proposed site it was minutes to Belgrave Safeway in one direction and a Maxi foods at UFG in the other. It seemed unnecessary given the population density.

  • 69
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    And also the Foodworks at Upwey.

  • 70
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    G Neogy re 46. Those food business’s are no longer there because the landlord sold the dwellings they were renting, yes? Which you would have to agree was his/her right, just as it is your right to sell your own dwelling. Do you want someone else telling you that you can’t sell your house?

  • 71
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    71 Comments so far. The bicycle must be getting jealous!

  • 72
    G Neogy
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    ladystardust64 – @ 70 – no problems with the landlord selling, nor do I have a problem with a modern rebuild. My concern here is of the litter that will be generated, the traffic and safety nightmare that it will create, and that it will be my Council rates that will be used to clean up the mess.

    The trouble with the use of this site (and I would have the same issue if it was a Hungry Jacks, or a KFC) is the social cost of this is just too high. There will be no NEW jobs, no innovation in food, and I (and my neighbours) get to pay for the cleanup…? Last time I checked, there were no rocks in my head.

    Indifference to this fight is acceptable, but trying to make the case that this is good for us – you must be dreaming. Can someone please convince me that having a Maccas is a sign of “progress”, and not use hackneyed, half-baked comments that are as bland as the dining fare that VCAT seems fit to impose on all of us.

  • 73
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    My rates too G Neogy. I pay rates to the same office that you do.

    ‘Progress’ is an interesting word, and can mean different things to different people. No new jobs seems an odd thing to say. I can’t see how that can actually be true when the main site of the protest is a vacant block of land and the main room of ‘the dairy’ has been vacant for some time. There will be jobs generated by this development.

    You can accuse me of being indifferent, that’s fine, that’s your right. I’m choosing to see it from a different perspective. That’s my right.

  • 74
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Tom, I don’t get the bicycle thing?

  • 75
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    74

    On this blog, the bicycle themed threads get more comments that pretty much any other topic than this.

  • 76
    George
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    I’d rather not have litter – and what a lot McD produces, vomit, burnouts, stench, louts at 2am, traffic doing backstreet ratruns and kids being indoctrinated to eat soulless crap for breakfast lunch and dinner.

    Neither do 92% of 18+ yr olds in Tecoma.

    And thats’ not enough of a reason because?

    Oh yes, because another soulless 24×7 is such a public good that someone has to have it according to VCAT. It’s right up there with schools, hospitals, municipal dumps, doctors surgeries, preschool centres, after school centres, police stations etc. The VIC Planning Minister said ‘VCAT got it wrong’.

    The job argument? 20-30 FTEs (full time equivalent jobs) on minimum wages is not worth the disadvantages. There are 15 or so cafes in Belgrave providing a ton of experience to young people. A McD will make redundant a number of those jobs in great cafes serving great food.

  • 77
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    I have a friend who is currently doing a ‘side’ tour of the tour de france. Does that count? :)

  • 78
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    77

    That is sport cycling not urban travel cycling. You will get accused of perpetuating sport, lycra and helmet stereotypes.

  • 79
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Tom the first and best #75:

    On this blog, the bicycle themed threads get more comments that pretty much any other topic than this.

    Especially if there’s any mention of the mandatory helmet law!

  • 80
    Tom the first and best
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    79

    Don`t mention the law!

  • 81
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Revealed: the full McDonald’s Tecoma writs and affidavits

  • 82
    IkaInk
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Alan’s next piece: Should the Tacoma Drive-Thru [sic] McDonalds be granted an exception to MHL to help counter-act the link between obesity and fast-food?

  • 83
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Responding to LadyStarDust64 (#65) and Tom, generally:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/robots-taking-over-fast-food-jobs-2013-7?IR=T

    FTA: “Fast food chains in Japan, China and Great Britain have begun piloting the use of robots to cook meals. And while robots have been emerging in recent years as a boon for completing menial tasks like dispensing medicines in hospitals, these fast food robots are capable of preparing full sushi rolls or noodle dishes for Asian food outlets. In many cases, customers complete their orders through a touchscreen, which then alerts the robot how to prepare the meal. No humans needed.”

    To reiterate the point I was making, McDonalds claims to bringing employemnt to the region are, at best, empty. In fact, I’d say they’re false, given that they have already begun installing the touch-screen ordering stations at existing stores in Melbourne.

  • 84
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    And, in case you got bored reading before you got to THIS paragraph, further down:

    “Yet on his show Curley raised examples where robots were already replacing workers. To back up his claim, he pointed to McDonald’s and the Japanese sushi chain, Kura. As he shared on his show, McDonald’s just installed 7,000 touch-screens throughout Europe, eliminating the need for workers to take customers’ orders. Kura, for its part, has been able to fully eliminate cashiers from their workflow. In their place, the chain has installed scales in their branches that customers use to weigh their food. The customers are then asked to leave the money in a bucket, as if it were a highway toll.”

    All they’ll need to do, soon, is hook up with CityLink.

  • 85
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    Today I had to attend a meeting at a large company (not in the food services industry). No receptionist. I just booked myself into their computer and it printed me a visitors pass. Goodbye human receptionist person.

    I take your point Nick, I really do, but right now technology is allowing us to virtually have a dialogue about this issue. Sometimes it works for good rather than evil.

    Recently there was an excellent Greys Anatomy episode that pointed out the flaws in robotic technology for dispensing medicine. They may well be trialling robotic workers, but while humans are the ones ordering, there will still be a need for humans supervising the robots :)

  • 86
    ladystardust64
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    And I can’t count the number of times I have arrived home with my locally bought fish and chips only to find they have forgotten to include the one fat, greasy item I was really looking forward to eating. As a consumer you can’t check because the package is already wrapped when your number is called. That’s frustrating.

  • 87
    John Taylor
    Posted July 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Alan Davies #22 that would have to be the most intellectually dishonest reply I’ve seen to argument in a long while. We’re not talking about community opposition to housing developments putting pressure on housing supply and affordability but community opposition to a commercial enterprise in a place where the community don’t want it. Are you suggesting that this puts pressure on Big Mac supply and affordability? Or is it the extra petrol costs for those who might have to drive a bit further to get their fix of saturated fats and sugar? Your argument is either a poor choice because you aint got nothin’, or a conflation, because you aint got nothin’. Re-reading your article I’m sorry but it is one long “Look! Over there!” When you’ve come up with a decent analysis of the real issues get back to us.

  • 88
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    John Taylor #87:

    Opposition to housing developments is almost always couched in the same terms as you’re attributing to McDonalds i.e. a commercial enterprise (greedy developer!) in a place where the community doesn’t want it.

    The appropriate comparison with reduced housing affordability is reduced access to “chain store” retailing. Imagine no Bunnings, no McDonalds, no Coles, etc. I suspect you simply don’t “get” that many people see value in those retail forms, especially lower prices relative to traditional high st retailing formats.

  • 89
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    AD, my response would be that there’s a much stronger case for the negative effects stores like McDonald’s have than for those such as Bunnings and Coles. Maintain and encourage a strong culture of appreciation for good food, home cooking, nutrition and health, and stores like McDonald’s don’t really have a lot to offer society except occasional convenience. Unfortunately they thrive currently because so many people don’t get instilled with such a culture. Actually Coles seems to be making one of the most visible attempts to at least maintain it (obviously it’s in their commercial interest to do so!) with sponsorship of shows like MasterChef (for all its faults and obvious primary focus on being entertainment) and a bigger focus on promoting fresh food rather than packaged food. Of course there’s plenty of examples of highly questionable behaviour from Coles too, but I think there’s a reason people don’t go on protest marches when they propose opening a new store.

  • 90
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Dylan Nicholson #89:

    Seen how many confectionary aisles Coles has? Seen how many sweat-shop articles Bunnings sells? Seen the coal, chemical and fertilizer interests of Wesfarmers? You can construct a moral narrative that suits your ideological view about almost any large company. Ultimately, the popularity of McDonalds tells us it offers something that many people throughout the world value. Like my local fish and chippery, French restaurant and pub, it shouldn’t be the basis of a regular diet and for the great bulk of Australians I expect it isn’t.

  • 91
    Russ
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Fascinating discussion. It seems to me people have an issue with the planning system’s inability to discriminate by particular use – as opposed to generic retail – rather than any aspect of the urban realm. Fair enough, a lot of people think they should have that right, but I’d be careful what you wish for.

    The groups opposed to the St Kilda Triangle did so because they disliked chain stores, and if anything the failure of that project has accelerated the takeover by high-value chains in existing retail spaces because of a lack of space.

    Supermarket chains regularly oppose competition in their catchment areas, because it allows them to price-gouge customers if they are the only retailer.

    And finally, companies can and do influence democracy too. The more scope there is for politics over legal process the more likely major corporations can influence the decisions being made. Widespread blocking of commercial activity on use grounds will lead to campaigns for commercial development to be decided by state government, not locally; and for local businesses (both major and minor) to shut out competitors via political influence.

    The planning scheme isn’t – and shouldn’t be – designed to control the local retail market. If anything it already has to much power to create perverse outcomes. What it should do is maintain the urban realm, which in this case would be to argue for no drive-through and no on-site car parking, as Tecoma already has sufficient in the evening. But those clauses also need to be introduced to the scheme before a proposal gets to council. Leaving planning to the whims of democracy is not planning at all.

  • 92
    John Taylor
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Andrew#87 – the equine is deceased, kindly stop hitting it. I get this issues in this perfectly. What you don’t get is that your comparisons are fallacious. There is absolutely no issue of reduced housing affordability here – just a small community opposed to a Maccas because it doesnt fit in with their area. Or are you suggesting that if there was a Maccas that would then create an argument for further housing development and therefore it would be justified because if then folk objected to housing developments that would prove the point on affordability? Oh please – because if so I really detect, based on your expertise just the slightest whiff of self interest – right up your alley is it not? And I’ve never underestimated the ability of anyone, let alone a consultant, to be able to turn a private interest into a public good. As I said, when you’ve got some real analysis, get back to us because at the moment your arguments, such as they are and replies to posts have a Monty Pythonesque “he’s just making it up as he goes along” flavour.

  • 93
    John Taylor
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Sorry – Alan #87

  • 94
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    John Taylor #92:

    John, I’m obviously not saying there’re housing affordability implications associated with the specific issue of a McDonalds in Tecoma! Go back to the original comment where I was explaining, in response to the question “Why shouldn’t the people of Tecoma decide through their local council, what development occurs in their town?”, that local planning decisions can have implications for wider social policy. Each individual decision considered by itself might seem harmless enough, but in aggregate they can have undesirable consequences. And lay off the personal attacks. FYI I have no professional interest in statutory planning.

  • 95
    Bogong
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I suspect that the opponents are mostly motivated by an ideological dislike of McDonalds rather than other concerns. After all, outlets of Subway (an American owned multinational fast food outfit, unlike the Australian owned McDonalds operation in this country), are all through the area and I haven’t heard a peep of opposition to any Subway.

    The Tecoma shops are atrophying and if anything, a Maccas outlet will draw more customers to the whole shopping strip. So for those of us without a broad political activist agenda, the new McDonalds outlet will be a good thing for the area. :)

  • 96
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    #95

    Your “suspicion” is unfounded.

    The opposition is driven by a larger issue: the undermining of the democratic process by replacing it, a bit at a time, with undemocratic (that is, unelected) unaccountable institutions, such as VCAT. I”ve already written abou this, earlier. Please read comment #11 for further details.

  • 97
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Nick Seidenman #96:

    Nick, there was already huge opposition before the application got anywhere near VCAT, so “unaccountable institutions” is only part of the explanation.

    On a related issue, since Council’s Planning Scheme permitted the use, why do you put so much emphasis on VCAT’s role? The right of appeal is part of the essence of democracy and VCAT did what the Council, if it acted in accordance with its own scheme, was obliged to do. Why aren’t you down on Council rather than VCAT?

  • 98
    Bogong
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Nick, we all have to live with planning decisions. My neighbour wanted to put a double storey house extension right next to my fence. I objected and lost. But I’m not so self-centred to claim that my losing a planning appeal undermined the democratic process. Instead I’ve made friends with my new neighbours and I live with the VCAT decision. Perhaps you should too?

    I guess what offends me about the anti group is the (apparent?) hypocrisy, having no problems with the local fish & chip shop or even the American multinational fast food chain Subway, but emotionally condemning Maccas which sells the same sort of stuff as Subway and the local fish & chip shop. It seems like a double standard to me.

  • 99
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    @Bogong. You simply don’t — or won’t — get it.

    have a nice day.

  • 100
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    #97

    Planning Scheme clause 65 makes it pretty clear that the local council (eke “responsible authority” a) is not required to issue a permit simply because one CAN be issued, but must also b) determine if the proposed application is “acceptable”. Acceptability has numerous components, including amenity, compliance with published local planning and environment guidelines and goals, social and economic impact, and so forth. The council, which KNOWS the region and population that elected them, undertook to study these issues and consider ALL factors, including support and opposition to the development before rendering their decision.

    VCAT undertook no such study, has no such interest or understanding of the region, the people, our hopes and aspirations, the amenity we enjoy, &c. After 8 days of hearings, and three visits to the site, they shrugged and said “we see no problem with a maccas here.” The fact that THEY “SAW” no problem, IS the problem. THEY do not live here. THEY will not suffer any consequence, any loss of amenity, any drop in property value, any increase in crime or litter. The only way to appeal that decision — is to wage a very costly battle in the Vic Supreme Court. Furthermore, such appeal must be with regard to an error of law. Fortunately, there were indeed such errors, which gave us the necessary standing. However, doing so would almost certainly result in the matter simply being referred back to VCAT, with orders to correct those errors, and may or may not have resulted in VCAT reversing themselves altogether.

    As for why I’m not so critical of the council, who says I’m not? This discussion isn’t served by such criticism, and would only cloud what I hold to be the more pertinent issue.

    As for an appeal, the fact is that just because there IS an avenue of appeal, doesn’t necessarily mean it can be exercised. In the case of our local council, the VCAT decision came out within the month prior to local council elections, that is, during a time when the council is, by charter, in “caretaker” mode and may not, therefore, commit to any long-range or large-scale endeavours. VCAT appeals to the Vic Supreme Court must be filed within 30 days of the decision’s publication, which fell just a day or two short of the council elections, but almost a week before the incoming council would be sworn in and have their first meeting.

    The outgoing council did bring the matter to a vote and, for the “caretaker” reason as well as out of fear that McDonalds would make good on their threat to seek costs — an amount one council member (I think it was the mayor, Cr. Avery) compared to writing Maccas a “blank check” — the council voted 6 to 3 against filing a notice of appeal. Cr. Dunn tried to bring this to a vote again with the new council, anticipating that VSC might accept a late appeal given the circumstances, but it was again voted down, likewise out of fear of McDonalds ability to “out-spend / out-lawyer” the SYR.

    While I, personally, think that the council would have won either way — who’s gonna eat at that maccas knowing that they’re supporting a company that goes around beating up on the litte guy? — I can understand their apprehension, their fear, and their consideration of being accountable for how SYRC funds are spent. But, don’t worry. This issue will indeed come up in about two years, when elections are held again. And THIS voting rate-payor will remember.

  • 101
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 19, 2013 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    The Guardian (Australia) followed up on Thursday with a story, Why my little community is saying no to McDonalds.

  • 102
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Alan, like I said, I’m well aware of various corporate behaviours by Coles/Wesfarmers (and Woolworths) that I’m not terribly happy with – though for the most part, making use of sweatshop labour is not one such example (they need to do more to ensure safe and reasonable working standards in some sweatshops, but in general they offer a substantial rise in living standards to most of the workers they employ). But I still stand by my claim that we’d be better off as a society if we could do more to inculcate a respect for food that substantially reduced the demand for fast-food outlets (particularly the drive-thru variety). I wouldn’t say the same for large grocery or hardware stores.

  • 103
    Alan Davies
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Dylan Nicholson #102:

    I can agree when you put it in those terms i.e. reducing the demand for unhealthy food with a reduction in FF outlets as the consequence.

  • 104
    Nick Seidenman
    Posted July 20, 2013 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Alan & Dylan, I agree with you both with regard to educating people as to better eating and, more generally, healthier living. but, as I’ve said, that is only superficially what this is all about. We make a social contract with one another to create a government — a system by which we defend ourselves, organise ourselves, and together plan for a future that we intend to be better than today. When that contract gets co-opted by certain, wealthy parties, the rest of us find ourselves increasingly shut out from being able to realise that goal. McDonalds and corporations like it are using the system we create for our benefit, to simply enrich themselves AT OUR EXPENSE. THIS is what it’s about; not whether or not you can or should eat hamburgers whenever, wherever.

  • 105
    Joseph Smith
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    VCAT bashing, blah, blah, blah, you ignorant idiots.
    What the protesters fail to disclose, or most are are too ill informed to know what they are talking about is that the Yarra Ranges Shire Council’s planning department recommended approval of the Tecoma McDonalds application.
    The application was supported by all internal referral departments of Council (statutory and strategic planning, urban design, traffic, waste management, health, etc) as well as by VicRoads since its on a State Highway. These are the professional staff employed by Council and by the state government to make these decisions.
    The officer recommendation was overturned on a purely political decision by the elected Council, who lets face it, lack any relevant planning knowledge and are all too scared to make the correct call on the powers that have been delegated to them to implement their planning scheme.
    Council then proceeded to spend several hundred thousands on legal and consulting fees at VCAT on a case that they had zero chance of winning (which they knew as their own officers and legal counsel would have told them – notice that Council did not have any witnesses supporting their indefensible position although they certainly would have tried to find some to no avail).
    This Council like many do, used VCAT as the whipping boy to save face, rather than make the tough and just decision it was required to by law.
    VCAT is not pro-development, ask any developer that goes there or anyone working in the industry. VCAT is very conservative, more so than some Councils.
    Most cases that overturn Council refusals are just like this, the Council officers recommend approval, the elected Council ignore this because of objections, and surprise, surprise once all the outlandish cries of my kids are gonna get killed by cars and trucks, it’s too ugly, too big, my house will lose value and, I just don’t like it just because, have been heard, VCAT concluded the same as the Council officers in the first place.
    If it weren’t for VCAT keeping these political decisions in line, Councils would be stripped of their powers to make these decisions in the first place like has happened in some activity centres across Melbourne where development is being facilitated at a faster pace that Council politics can handle.
    The real story is that there are many thousands of rate paying residents of Yarra Ranges and Tecoma is all but a pimple at the foot of the Dandenongs, could this money have been better spent by Council rather putting up this political charade? Thankfully they didn’t stupidly go to the Supreme Court wasting any more money.

  • 106
    john2066
    Posted January 21, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Well said Joseph Smith above. The Nimby idiots opposing this should be made to pay compensation to all other residents of Yarra Ranges for the costs of this farce.

  • 107
    Alan Davies
    Posted April 7, 2014 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    The Age reports today that the McDonald’s store opened in Tecoma yesterday, Flood of customers queue for burgers at Tecoma McDonalds store.

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