Anne Gibson

Property editor of the NZ Herald

Fast food 'targets (Auckland's) poor'

Carl's Jr has been accused of targetting the poor by expanding in low socio-economic areas. Photo / Sarah Ivey.
Carl's Jr has been accused of targetting the poor by expanding in low socio-economic areas. Photo / Sarah Ivey.

A community leader has accused fast food businesses of targeting Auckland's poorest areas for expansion.

Derek Battersby, chairman of the New Lynn-based Whau Local Board, said it was no coincidence that Takanini, Glen Innes and Avondale were the first suburbs picked for opening new Carl's Jr Restaurants.

These three are some of the region's lowest socio-economic areas, he said, and he is concerned about the effects of fast food on the people who live there, advocating an anti-junk food campaign to limit consumption.

"They're after the poor people of my ward and they're going to make them more unhealthy and in my ward there are already a number of people in that category," he said.

But staff at Carl's Jr said low-carbohydrate hamburger options were sold by removing the buns and encasing the burger in lettuce.

All Black great Michael Jones, who is involved in the business, also said healthy options were available.

The burger chain has been dubbed one of the world's worst for its high-calorie meals.

When Restaurant Brands announced last year it had Carl's Jr business in New Zealand, it said it wanted to establish in all main centres but it said this week it was not the entity opening at Avondale and all inquiries should be directed to that franchisee.

Battersby says the burger chain had built exclusively in poor zones with an obvious agenda of aiming its food at vulnerable target markets.

He is particularly concerned about the Carl's Jr opening soon in Avondale at a prominent intersection where Wingate St, St Jude St and Great North Rd meet.

The Carl's Jr Facebook page lists outlets at 230 Great South Rd, Takanini and at 113-117 Felton Mathew Ave at St Johns/Glen Innes.

Battersby predicted the Avondale outlet would be extremely popular through its high profile at the confluence of busy roads, directly opposite a Mobil petrol station.

The Whau Community Board encompasses New Lynn, Green Bay and Kelston, Rosebank, Avondale, New Windsor and Blockhouse Bay.

Battersby is not an advocate of councils being able to restrict fast-food outlets, a move advocated by ex-Green MP Sue Kedgley who is worried about international chains expanding here.

She was commenting this week on ambitious expansion plans by Wendy's, Burger King, Carl's Jr and McDonald's although Simon Kenny of McDonald's said only one new site was being developed and that was at Flat Bush in Ormiston Rd. He objected to citing last year's plan when a McDonald's executive said nine new restaurants were in the pipeline.

Restaurant Brands owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks Coffee and last year acquired the rights to Carl's Jr in New Zealand. It says its brands are some of the world's most famous and "distinguished not only for their product but also for the look, style and ambience of their outlets, for the service they provide, and for the total experience they deliver to their customers in New Zealand and around the world".

Battersby said he wanted a public campaign, funded by the Government, to instigate a two-pronged attack aimed at increasing junk food prices while also educating people about the effects of the food on their bodies.

He advocates a fat tax aimed at decreasing the consumption of foods linked to obesity and coronary heart disease, such as saturated fat and salt.

"My concern is that these people are unable to help themselves and maybe Auckland Council needs to look at ways of offering formal education. I don't know whether it's our role to tell people how to eat. I'm not advocating banning these places," he said.

Nick Katsoulis of St Pierre's Sushi said it was wrong to assume only fast food outlets were expanding.

He complained that businesses selling healthy food got little publicity when they were increasing the number of outlets, yet this style of food was becoming more popular as people recognised the benefits of making the right food choices.

His business would open a further six outlets this year, he said, including at Auckland Hospital where it had to adhere to strict guidelines.

Healthy food chains to expand lately included St Pierre's Sushi, Subway, Habitual Fix and Pita Fresh, he said.

International chains have engaged local Auckland real estate agents to hunt for sites.

Burger King has instructed Doug Osborne who joined from Savills in Shortland St and Wendy's has Chris Beasleigh of Jones Lang LaSalle in the PWC Tower on Quay St.

Osborne is working with two other Savills agents on deals but refused to comment on the expansion.

- NZ Herald

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