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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Food outlets fear for their future

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The owner of a popular Murwillumbah cafe made an emotional plea to Tweed shire councillors yesterday to reject a 24-hour-hour McDonalds restaurant which many food outlets in the town say will kill them off.

Council planners have recommended councillors approve the controversial fast-food restaurant and drive-through at its meeting next Tuesday. It is part of a $3 million complex at the town’s northern gateway on Tweed Valley Way which also includes an IGA supermarket.

New Leaf cafe owner Gary Bagnall, speaking on behalf of eight of the town’s small food outlets, held back tears as he pleaded with councillors to protect scores of  local jobs of family income earners which would be lost if the fast-food giant was allowed in.

‘Millions of dollars of the projected takings of McDonalds will come directly out of our pockets, we’re afraid that much of our trade will be lost and some will be forced to close down,’ Mr Bagnall told community access.

‘I employ 19 people but 11 are the only income earners of their family, if we lose trade, we’ll have to put some of them off.

‘Murwillubah is a unique town, some say old fashioned, with many boutique businesses which I believe will have to close down. We lost our highway, we lost our railway, then Coles came into town and a supermarket and bakeries closed down as a result.

‘We’ve got lots of empty shops now but there’ll be a lot more if this is approved. Our roadside cafes, motels, caravan parks depend on tourists coming through the town but we’ll also lose a lot of that trade.

‘Our wage earners will be replaced by 15-to-16-year-old kids who don’t need a job or the money… we are afraid, and we want you to support us.’

Council planners have knocked back proposed 10-metre neon-lit pylon signs for both McDonalds and the IGA, reducing their height by half. The fast-food outlet’s famed ‘golden-arches’ sign, staff said, would spoil the iconic profile view of Mt Warning as motorists drove into town.

Planners have also tightened conditions to ensure building materials are sympathetic with the surrounding character of the town and approval will not be given till they are met.

Kit Johnson told the access meeting that other councils in Australia had knocked back McDonalds outlets due to fears of increased crime and obesity among youth.

‘Port Macquarie did not allow a fourth McDonalds in their town because of health issues,’ he said.

Madonna Langan, who spoke on behalf of residents on Tumbulgum Road who live across the Tweed River from the proposed complex, said residents were already impacted on by noise, bright lights and ‘rowdiness’ at night from a hotel in that part of town and they feared a 24-hour drive-through McDonalds would increase that.

‘Cheap fast-food outlets attract undesirable people and loud cars – and policing in this town is limited,’ she said.

‘But people in this town are afraid to speak out because they support the IGA but it’s tied in with McDonalds, so they can’t,’ she said.

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