Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday September 18th, 2013, 3:28pm

Australians Bring Their Fight Against McDonald's To The Company's Oak Brook Headquarters (VIDEO)

A group of Australians against a McDonald's restaurant scheduled to be built in their tiny Melbourne suburb took to the fast food giant's Oak Brook headquarters Wednesday in protest of the plan.

Five villagers from Tecoma, which has about 2,000 residents, delivered a petition to McDonald's home office with 97,000 plus signatures, essentially telling the company to "beef off" and drop its plan to construct a 24-hour restaurant in their town. Residents are up in arms about the planned McDonald's for a variety of reasons, but mainly because it is set to be built next door to a preschool and would be very close to the Dandenong Ranges, a protected national park.

"The McDonald's who so proudly purport on their website that they are community-minded, that they work with communities, they respect communities. The behavior we're experiencing is the absolute antithesis of that," said Tecoma resident Peta Freema. "They've shown us none of that."

Australian grassroots organizers have been working to stop the chain from setting up shop in their town ever since McDonald's applied to build the restaurant back in 2011. About 1,200 residents sent written objections to the city council, which unanimously shot down the development plans in 2011.

But McDonald's later took the case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), which overruled the city council's decision. VCAT's ruling gave McDonald's the green light to build the restaurant.

Freema said the majority of Tecoma residents are against the planned restaurant, and noted that there are already four McDonald's locations about a 10- to 15-minute drive from their suburb.

"It's not needed," she stressed. "Respect the community."

Tecoma resident Garry Muratore said he came to the Chicago area to let McDonald's CEO Don Thompson know the company's behavior in Australia is "unethical".

"They're suing people. They're intimidating people," Muratore said. "We've had private investigators following us around. This is not the way that a corporation should behave."

Here's more from Muratore:

Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, vice president of global external communications at McDonald's, told the protestors that the company “respectfully accepts” their petitions.

And in response to the allegation that the company has taken legal action against Tecoma residents, Sa Shekhem said, "We've only done legal protection from the folks who put themselves in danger," referring to people who have trespassed on the construction site.

While talking with reporters, Sa Shekhem noted that despite the petitions and other protests the group has planned, the project is moving forward. The restaurant's construction is slated to be complete by mid-2014, she said.

"We're very comfortable with the site," she said. "A lot of due diligence and research goes into sites when McDonald's opens restaurants to make sure that there's customer support."

But according to the activists, nearly 93 percent of Tecoma residents oppose the restaurant. That's based on a door-to-door survey community members conducted six months ago, Freema said.

"Despite having the evidence in their hands, they still claim that they have overwhelming support within the community, which is incredibly frustrating," Freema said.

Sa Shekhem said the validity of the survey is questionable, and added that "dozens" of people from Tecoma have contacted McDonald's home office in support of the restaurant. Other supporters reportedly reached out to McDonald's Australia, but Sa Shekhem did not provide more specifics on that claim.

McDonald's also wants to make it clear, Sa Shekhem said, that the space where it plans to locate in Tecoma, at Burwood Highway and Sandells Road, is a commercialized area with existing businesses, including a 24-hour gas station.

“The narrative that the group is putting out there is that it’s a forest preserve area," she continued. "In reality, it’s a commercialized zone."

Additionally, the site's local franchisee James Currie met with Muratore and some of the activists in April. As such, McDonald's feels “very satisfied that their views have been heard,” Sa Shekhem added.

Nonetheless, Tacoma resident Melinda Carey says the company did not take community concerns into account.

"I know that they think they'll keep pushing, and we'll eventually give up, [but] we won't ever give up. Never," she said. "We live there."

Comments

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Dozens of people want it? THOUSANDS have marched in local rallies, written letters of objection to VCAT, turned up to rallies and meetings. McDonalds- you are pushing yourself on a community that does not want to you. In fact your recent actions and media statements have only resulted in turning people away from frequenting ANY of your "restaurants". Now lets address another interpretation of the truth. Yes, there are other businesses here but the new McDonalds will be about five times larger than the current largest commercial building here and no business (not even the local service station) operates 24 hours a day (it has been reported that they do - they do not!) There are NO drive-thrus in the area and the intersection where they want to put this drive thru is already a nightmare at busy times. The "highway" they talk about is one lane going east (the McDonalds site side of the road).

The survey that showed that nine out of ten people in Tecoma do not want a McDonalds here (yes- I live in Tecoma!) The survey that took place in Tecoma involved using the electoral role to doorknock EVERY household in Tecoma. Those who answered, were over 18 & stated 'against' when asked "are you for or against a McDonald's in Tecoma", then had their details recorded and signed - in effect the survey became a petition. It was a simple question, there was no pressure and residents just had to say "yes" or "no". For reasons of confidentiality, these people's names are not publicly available. HOWEVER, the entire process was formally audited to the highest standards required in order to enable it to be submitted to parliament. The process and results are above doubt. The FULL LIST went to parliament and has also been inspected by newspapers. It passed scrutiny by both and has in fact been quoted extensively in the newspapers.

Interestingly the results of the telephone survey that McDonald's conducted still haven't surfaced. They said that they would provide the results it to community delegates in April. We are STILL waiting....not so confident in the numbers? The Australian CEO let it slip when she said the area was "a gap". We have seen the map showing your "restaurant" locations throughout Melbourne and what we see as a beautiful fast food free zone, they see as an area they have not yet steamrolled through. Before this came up I NEVER heard ANY local say they wish there was a McDonalds here. NEVER. If they wanted Maccas, they would go to Ferntree Gully or Boronia (a ten to fifteen minute drive away). Now, after McDonalds recent behaviour, they probably won't even go there.

Originally my husband and I had nothing against McDonalds in Tecoma except the size and the location. Now we do thanks to bullying and lies. We have teenagers and they will now never go to any McDonalds. Bad PR. Bad business sense. Your loss I guess if you go broke. Just a shame we will get stuck with a large ugly building that does not fit in our area.

Already a 24 hour service station in Tecoma? Is that the lies you are being fed from your Australian corporation Mc Donalds USA? That is simply not true. Tecoma's existing businesses are all closed early each evening. The town gets dark, and we can see the stars. We don't want 24/7 light pollution from your store in our forest. What effect will this have on all of the nocturnal animals that live in the forest nearby? If people really want Mc Donalds, they can drive about 4 miles down the road to the outer suburbs and get their Mc Donalds fix there. Please Americans, boycott Mc Donalds until they commit to leave our forest alone. No Mc Donalds in the tiny town of Tecoma. No Mc Donalds anywhere in the Dandenong Ranges - as our local forest is called. Everything in its place, and Tecoma is no place for a 24/7 retail business of any kind. Join the boycott for common sense - I have.

Here's one of our many videos. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7FYVxSXnCM. For more, search youtube for Tecoma. Then let Mc Donalds know why you won't be eating there anymore until they agree to leave our hills alone.

Australian grassroots organizers have been working to stop the chain from setting up shop in their town ever since McDonald's applied to build the restaurant back in 2011. About 1,200 residents sent written objections to the city council, which unanimously shot down the development plans in 2011. This is the right to Australian to reject any product to spread in their community. Printusher.com is the site for online printing in New york and serving all over USA

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