MAM spokesperson Anne Elliott said: 'It is a great win by a local group against a huge corporation. We hope it will be an inspiration to other groups all over the world who are fighting encroachment from fast food chains, or other developments which are insensitive to the special qualities of their region.
'The Blue Mountains is an area of great natural beauty and heritage interest. We have argued all along that it must remain different and unique if it is to keep its appeal to tourists, who are the lifeblood of local business'.
MAM gathered under one banner a wide coalition of local people, ranging from residents who would be most directly affected by the noise, traffic and litter accompanying a fast food outlet, to environmentalists, to local businesspeople whose livelihoods would be affected, to parents and teachers concerned about the way fast food corporations market to children.
MAM's strategy was based on well-organised action to inform and mobilise the local community. It sought messages of support from international figures like David Suzuki, as well as Australian celebrities; it held a rally, with entertainment, at which 100 voices were raised against the McDonald's proposal; it distributed two issues of a broadsheet newspaper which included information about the proposed development, about McDonald's itself, and about the stand being taken by all local councillors. Members made sure that the local press were fully covered by writing numerous letters to editors, issuing media releases, and taking some paid advertising.
As a result of MAM's activities, the forces ranged against McDonald's were substantial. The Council received over 5000 objections to the proposal and only 15 letters in support. Anne Elliott says: 'It was this solid body of local opinion that won the day in the end, despite the strenuous efforts of some press commentators and councillors to portray us as a noisy, elitist minority'.
MAM was greatly encouraged by the support it received from all over the world in response to its posts on the McSpotlight Web site during the campaign. Gil Appleton, MAM's point of contact with the Internet, says: 'We received supportive e-mail and helpful advice from people in many parts of the world: we even heard about a successful campaign here in Australia that we had not been aware of before! We also put to good use material on the site about other campaigns, and about McDonald's itself. The whole exercise was a great illustration of how valuable the Internet can be in creating global links between people involved in similar causes.'
It had been thought that McDonald's would appeal against the recent decision by the local municipal council to reject its application on zoning grounds. But one press columnist who has been a vocal advocate for McDonald's reported earlier this week that the corporation was taking time 'to reflect in whether it wants to open up in a community so rife with hostility'.
In the event, it seems, local opposition won the day.
Action group Mountains Against McDonalds (MAM) mounted a vigorous campaign against the McDonald's proposal, attracting support from thousands of local residents and from among the 3 million national and international visitors who come to the Blue Mountains each year.
The MAM campaign was innovative in its use of the Internet to gather information about strategies used by action groups elsewhere in the world resisting insensitive fast food developments in heritage and historical areas.
MAM spokesperson Shirley Lewis said: This campaign is a great example of the way the Internet can help create a truly global community, linking people with common interests, and concern about the environment. We had messages of support from Finland, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and France, as well as from other parts of Australia which have resisted similar developments.
This decision has much wider implications than just for the Mountains or Australia. It is part of a worldwide trend on the part of local communities and authorities to act against the kind of irresponsible development which is destroying the qualities that make their environments attractive to visitors and residents alike.
McDonald's has had a lot of adverse publicity lately. For example, franchisees are disgruntled at the McDonald's allowing more and more franchises in competition with existing ones. Their stocks have fallen on Wall Street. We hope that they will see the wisdom of keeping out of areas which have special qualities like the Blue Mountains and Queensland's Port Douglas, which is fighting a similar proposal. MAM is promoting the concept of 'McFree zones' in areas like these'.
The Blue Mountains Council rejected the McDonald's proposal on the grounds that the nature of the development contravened the permissible use of the proposed site, namely as a restaurant. The Council was advised that the drive-through and takeaway components of the business meant that its primary function would be as a shop rather than a restaurant. To the disappointment of some of the anti McDonald's activisits, a majority of the Council rejected other grounds such as the inherent conflict between the McDonald's outlet and the Council's own policy on Blue Mountains character, and on advertising signage; the likely impact on residents; and its implications for a town study encompassing plans for an attractive gateway' to the city of Katoomba.
It is expected that McDonald's will appeal against the decision in the Land and Environment Court.
In a decision described by locals as a cop-out, the Blue Mountains City Council has deferred until February its decision on a proposed McDonald's fast food outlet on the Great Western Highway at Katoomba.
In the meantime, McDonald's is to submit an amended proposal which addresses concerns about inappropriate signage, siting, parking and zoning problems, and the removal from the site of a traditional weatherboard cottage.
Shirley Lewis, spokesperson for local action group Mountains Against McDonald's (MAM) Mountains Against McDonald's (MAM)said: 'The Council's decision to defer a decision on the application is a cop-out, and ignores widespread community opposition to the proposal. Council received a total of over 6,800 objections to the development, and only 15 letters in favour of it. What more did Council need to convince it to reject the development outright?'
Mountains resident and former chief judge of the Land and Environment Court, Jim McClelland, commented: 'This is a cowardly decision. Obviously some councillors were intimidated by the prospect of expensive litigation to defend a refusal in Court. Council had a number of valid grounds on which to reject the proposal.
Blue Mountains residents objecting to the proposed development claim that it would represent a further inappropriate encroachment into a unique area of Australia which was recently granted World Heritage status. McDonald's outlets already exist in the lower Blue Mountains and at Lithgow, the next major town west of Katoomba. Katoomba and nearby villages like Leura and Blackheath have a wide range of takeaway outlets, cafes and restaurants which are an integral part of the local tourist scene and add to the charm of the Mountains' traditional streetscapes.
Shirley Lewis said that MAM would continue its efforts to stop the development. 'Council's final decision in this case will be crucial, given the tendency for fast food chains to proliferate once one has gained a foothold in any area. The inevitable line of fast food outlets on the Great Western Highway at Katoomba will change forever the individuality of this area. It will become indistinguishable from a hundred other tourist destinations in Australia with obtrusive signage, uniform buildings and all the associated problems of traffic congestion and litter'.
The Mountains group has attracted support from Councillor Mike Berwick, Mayor of Port Douglas in North Queensland. This beautiful resort, chosen by US President Clinton for a recent holiday break, is also under threat from a McDonald's development. Despite the setback in the Mountains, the movement by local communities against McDonald's and similar franchised fast food outlets is gaining momentum, especially since the Internet has made it easy for groups in other States and countries to exchange information and share tactics.
The rally was titled '100 Voices', being built around 100 people speaking against the McDonald's development for one minute each. As well there were song, poetry and other performances specially devised for the occasion. Contributions sent by influential environmentalists (including David Suzuki) politicians and others who were unable to attend, were read out by speakers. A former chief judge of the court where any appeal by McDonald's against an adverse decision would be heard, expressed the view that he would have found against the development for a whole raft of legal reasons.
The crowd was a wide cross section with people from a range of social and ethnic groups, and the feeling of the day was very positive and optimistic. One of the most impressive aspects was the number of children who spoke against the incursion of McDonald's into their community. Some had composed special songs and poems. A Japanese exchange student (of whom there are many in the area) spoke movingly about the encroachment of fast food chains in her own country, and pleaded that it not happen in this beautiful area.
Among the messages of support was one from the mayor of Port Douglas, a beautiful resort in North Queensland which was recently chosen by US President Bill Clinton for a few days' rest and recreation. ort Douglas too is under threat from a McDonald's development, and the Mayor expressed strong solidarity with the efforts of the upper Blue Mountains to keep McDonald's out.
On the night of the Council decision, MAM is staging a picnic outside the Council Chambers to which it hopes all residents and business people opposed to McDonald's will come as a demonstration to Council of the extent of opposition in the community.
Because of the popularity of the Blue Mountains, which receives over 3m visitors a year, the battle is attracting national attention, and the Australian media are likely to give major coverage to the decision whichever way it goes.
MAM believes it is part of a worldwide trend to resistance from local communities, particularly in great beauty spots, against the incursion of fast food chains like McDonald's. MAM invites expressions of support from sympathetic communities around the world.
MAM bases its case primarily on the uniqueness of this area, which as well as its natural beauty has charming period houses, along with restaurants and cafes which serve traditional Mountains fare and are an integral part of the overall ambience of the area. MAM believes that this ambience will be destroyed forever by an incursion from Macdonalds, which would be rapidly followed by other fast food chains.
MAM seeks support and assistance from anti-Macdonalds campaigners who have fought successfully in other parts of the world. Email may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
The anti-McDonald's forces are mobilising their campaigns - their aim is to stop the Council granting the Development Application so that the restaurant cannot be built.
[The DA will be considered by the Council towards the end of October.]
The suggestion has come from Brandon Raynor, a naturopath and chairperson of EarthSave (NSW) in conjunction with the Earth Repair Foundation, Hazelbrook.
"We have researched many food items and packing appropriate for such a store and amongst us are experts who would be willing to asvise on organic food standards and the world's best practices associated with natural foods," Mr Raynor said in a letter to Mr Charlie Bell, managing director of McDonald's Australia.
While the news of McDonald's second attempt to establish an outlet in the Upper Mountains was not surprising, their desire to become "an active and valued part of the community" was laughable, she said, as McDonalds's previous attempt fractured the community.
While quick to point out new employment opportunities and a payroll of $900,000 per annum in last week's Gazette, McDonald's had made no mention of how much money would leave the area or of the serious impact McDonald's had on local small business.
|"Every time someone patronises a fast food chain, they are putting another nail in the coffin of small business. All in the quest for clean toliets, cheap 'junk' food and a place for children's birthday parties!|
"With over 500 McDonald's outlets throughout Australia and a corporate plan that no one should be more than five minutes' drive from a McDonald's, those of us who care about the environment, children's health and our unique Australian heritage have every reason to be concerned," said Anne Elliott.