Mixed reaction to fast food giant's Wānaka plan

The McDonald's restaurant would be located at the under-construction Mt Iron Junction roundabout,...
The McDonald's restaurant would be located at the under-construction Mt Iron Junction roundabout, a major entry point into Wanaka. Photo via NZ Herald
A resource consent application for a 24-hour McDonald’s at the entrance to Wānaka has drawn the ire of some locals.

An application by McDonald’s New Zealand for a 445sq m restaurant, complete with a drive-through, seating for 75 diners and parking for 24 cars, is currently under review by the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC).

If successful, the international hamburger giant’s golden arches will soon welcome visitors arriving in Wānaka through the Mt Iron Junction subdivision off the SH6/SH84 roundabout currently under construction.

The McDonald's Restaurant would be located at the under-construction Mt Iron Junction roundabout, a major entry point into Wanaka.

After local media outlets broke the news of the potential new addition to the township on Wednesday, a petition calling on QLDC to prevent the resource consent was promptly created.

As at 3pm on Thursday, the petition had received more than 450 signatures.

“As a community that prizes itself on health, wellness, and its beautiful natural environment, McDonald’s goes against all of our core community values,” wrote petition author Sarah Morrison.

“This international fast food giant, responsible for mass distribution of unhealthy food to an increasingly obese populationand extensive food waste and pollution, does not belong in our beautiful home.

“To preserve the beauty, uniqueness, and natural essence that makes Wānaka stand out and be such a desirable place to live, we must support businesses that also align with these values.”

Several signatories wrote their reasons for rallying against the restaurant.

“Even without a McDonald’s currently in Wānaka, their trash and pollution still makes it all the way from Queenstown, often found on the side of the road through the Range and right onto Wānaka’s lakefront. We don’t need our people and our landscape poisoned by this fast food giant,” wrote Amelia McGeorge.

Many decried the potential for litter, while touting the need to support local businesses rather than corporate giants.

The McDonald's restaurant is planned to be built at the foot of Mt Iron. Image: Supplied
The McDonald's restaurant is planned to be built at the foot of Mt Iron. Image: Supplied
Wānaka Business Chamber general manager Glenn Peat said news of the consent application came out of the blue, as he learned about it through the media on Wednesday afternoon.

He said because the news had happened so quickly, the chamber had not yet had the opportunity to communicate with their membership to establish an informed stance, but he sympathised with the residents who wished to preserve Wānaka’s “distinct character”.

“We obviously acknowledge that McDonald’s is a global brand, and with that, it is going to bring opportunities in some respect, but also equally challenges. We also understand these large-scale businesses like The Warehouse that opened recently as well, they can evoke strong opinions,” he said.

“It’s great to preserve Wānaka’s uniqueness - but of course, the town is growing and so it’s just a matter of how we can do that with balance between economic diversity and equal opportunity. We completely understand that there’s concerns out there.”

One Wānaka resident, who did not want to be named, saw the positive side of the franchise coming to town, saying it would be nice to have a broader range of options to suit every pocket.

“No one is forced to go to McDonald’s and no one is pretending this is a healthy food option but it’s an occasional treat and in a growing town,” they said.

Another resident said they understood that change had to happen. However, they also expressed disappointment at the restaurant’s location, with its golden arches being the first thing visitors will see when they come to town.

”It’s never going to be the Wānaka that it used to be,” they said.

McDonald’s New Zealand spokesman Simon Kenny said rumours about a McDonald’s coming to Wānaka had been swirling for some time, but there was not previously a site that met their criteria while taking into account the growth of the town.

“Working with a local developer we now have a site we think is suitable, and we’re commencing the formal council consent process. We’re committed to working through that process as required,” Kenny said.

A QLDC spokesperson said McDonald’s had volunteered that the application be publicly notified, which will allow anyone to make a submission on the application at the relevant stage in the process.

 

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