28 January 2009

McDonalds is Coming to Town

Ronald McDonaldImage via Wikipedia

Yes, its true. The Golden Arches are coming to Gore and will be peddling their wares 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

According to the McDonalds New Zealand website McDonalds restaurants spend around $100 million a year with Kiwi suppliers - in fact some 90% of the products they use in their restaurants are sourced in New Zealand and 80% of their restaurants in this country are owned by New Zealanders. They employ over 6000 staff throughout New Zealand. Which all sounds good . . . right?

Obviously having a McDonalds in town will not be without benefits to some local businesses. They will need tradesmen for maintenance and repair, they will encourage more visitors into Gore - the closest McDonalds around is a good 40 minutes drive South in Invercargill, and they will employ more people in the town. . . mostly at the bare minimum wage of $12 per hour.

McDonalds workers who are member of the UNITE Union of Workers have recently won a settlement that will, from March 2009, increase the base level of pay for a crew member from $12 per hour to $12.50 and allow them some level of shift security. It has been a hard won fight - and despite the McDonalds Corporation posting significant profits recently, it took 50 strikes by union workers before McDonalds would come to the party. Is this really the kind of employer we want to encourage into our community?

Now, McDonalds is not the first fast food giant to land in town. We have Pizza Hut, KFC and Subway currently gracing our main street, so we are already spoiled for choice when it comes to fast food joints that add little value to the local economy. Do we really need another? Surely it would be wiser as a community to support the local eateries that spend their money here in town?

Although McDonalds have , in recent years, begun to offer healthier choices on their menu, ultimately what they sell is junk food. In fact, what they sell is more junk than food - and I'm not just talking about the poor nutritional value of their products. Fast food outlets are fantastic producers of waste - from unnecessary packaging to food waste.

In the UK McDonalds is responsible for 29% of the fast food rubbish that litters the country's streets. Here in New Zealand, Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws is considering a levy on fast food corporates because the Wanganui Council feel it is unfair that ratepayers should have to pay to clean up their packaging litter. In Gore the local council has stipulated as part of the resource consent granted to McDonalds that they need to install extra rubbish bins around their restaurant. But unfortunately, many fast food consumers don't eat on site and throw their rubbish elsewhere.

Of course, you can't hold McDonalds responsible for their customers being too lazy to properly dispose of their rubbish. But, the fast food mentality - the eating in a hurry, the sacrificing your body's nutritional needs, the generic food and service . . . if you can't take the time to eat mindfully and fuel your body well, then why would you take the time to put your rubbish in the bin?

I'm all for encouraging business into our area of the world. In fact, I am actively involved in trying to build up the local economy in Mataura, where I live, just out of Gore. But I think that we need to be more choosy about the type of businesses we encourage into our communities. We need to be looking for businesses that will strengthen our local economies, that impact positively on the environment, that offer fair wages for a days work, that sell products that contribute to our wellbeing. . . I don't feel that our new McDonalds will do any of this.

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