Wānaka residents fighting plans for a McDonald’s need to realise the resort is “not the little mountain town” it once was, a developer involved in the project says.
Opposition to plans has continued to grow since it was revealed last week the fast-food giant had applied for a resource consent for a drive-thru restaurant at the corner of State Highways 6 and 84.
A petition against the Golden Arches coming to Wānaka had gained more than 4700 signatures by yesterday.
The restaurant will be located next to the soon-to-be-completed Mt Iron roundabout as part of the planned Mt Iron Junction development.
Mount Iron Junction Ltd co-owner Steve Schikker said it had been approached by McDonald’s about the potential site earlier in the year.
“Obviously, McDonald’s works on some sort of business model that when a town or area gets to a certain level, then it has an interest.”
Everyone was entitled to their opinion, but he hoped those opposed to a McDonald’s also considered the potential benefits it could bring, Schikker said.
“Apart from supermarkets, they’re a very high employer of youth in New Zealand.
“They contribute back to society through Ronald McDonald House and a lot of sponsorship — that could be regional, like rugby teams, that sort of stuff.”
On the question of litter, he said while it was easy to point the finger at a big-name brand like McDonald’s, it was symptomatic of a much larger issue.
“I mean, that’s a societal problem. It’s not McDonald’s that throws the wrappers out the window, it’s society that does.”
He understood people’s resistance to change, but Wānaka was “not the little mountain town” it once was, he said.
“And there are benefits to that. There’s benefits to education — we’ve got a fantastic school here, there’s no need to really send your kids away. There’s good infrastructure, there’s good medical facilities.
“You get more facilities a lot of these detractors are probably making good use of.”
Petition organiser Sarah Morrison earlier said she created the petition as she believed the global restaurant brand did not fit with “Wānaka’s values”.
One of the main points raised by those contacting her was a concern about the added impact of waste on an area “known for its environmental beauty”, she said.
She had also heard from small businesses who were worried about the impact McDonald’s would have on their efforts to provide “quality food” and employ locals “with actually decent hours and pay rates”.
Morrison planned to present the petition to the Queenstown Lakes District Council and would work with the community by providing submission templates when the resource consent was publicly notified.
McDonald’s NZ spokesman Simon Kenny said the company was “always assessing potential sites” as part of its ongoing new restaurant development plan.
“While there have been rumours about McDonald’s coming to Wānaka for some time, we’ve not previously had a site that we thought would meet our criteria.”
No timeframe for the restaurant’s consent process has yet been given.
McDonald’s was “committed to working through that process as required”, Kenny said.