Price of protest

DVD Destinations manager Ann Board hopes to get more locals through the store. 106948 Picture: EMMA SUN


“Tecoma is on the verge of a complete empty shopping strip; I fear for the future of the traders,” Traders Association president Karen Rook

TECOMA traders have opened up about their concerns for the town, amidst the battle between McDonald’s and protesters against the proposed fast food restaurant.
Throughout their battle against the corporate giant, anti-McDonald’s supporters have expressed their concerns that a McDonald’s would affect local traders.
However DVD Destinations owner Don Orpin said they needed to open their eyes and see what the protest was actually doing to the town.
“By prolonging their activities they are having a very strong adverse financial effect on a number of Tecoma traders who are the backbone of the town and vital for the town’s ongoing viability and vibrancy,” he said.
“They are also alienating a large section of the community who are indifferent to their protests or see McDonald’s as a positive for Tecoma.
“We are constantly being told by customers that they will not come back to this part of town, or in many instances, to Tecoma at all while the protests continue, as they feel intimidated by what is happening and are upset by how ugly the town looks.
“Unfortunately we can only agree with them because the whole area is like something out of the third world with graffiti covered compounds, plenty of noise and security guards, police and colourful protesters milling around.”
He said the protest had also caused access and parking problems, which he said had made the town a retailer’s nightmare.
Tecoma Traders’ Association president Karen Rook, who owns recycled kids clothing store Piccaninny, said shops had been becoming vacant along Burwood Highway, something that has never happened before, leaving her concerned that Tecoma would become a ghost town.
“This is the first time I’ve ever known for a shop along here to actually have a lease sign,” she said.
“I know things are really tough everywhere at the moment – I’ve been talking to other traders in other areas and they’re all noticing it so I can’t say that the protestors are actually stopping business for me particularly, but it is strange.
“I’ve never really seen them empty, they’ve always had someone within two to three months moving in, usually off their books.”
Ms Rook said many traders were struggling to hang on at the moment, and despite most traders not taking sides in the McDonald’s debate, some had been targeted and boycotted.
She urged Tecoma residents to support Tecoma traders, regardless of which side they were on.
“Tecoma is on the verge of a complete empty shopping strip; I fear for the future of the traders,” she said.
“Whether McDonald’s brings business or not, and we’re not saying it will bring business, but at the moment, anything is better than nothing.
“Tecoma has got to make it there, to get through the next six to 12 months, that’s what we’re worried about, we’re trying to make a living now.
“We’re tired of this fighting – whether you agree or not, you should keep that aside and keep coming to Tecoma to shop.”
Mr Orpin said as McDonald’s had the law on its side, it was time for the protesters to turn their attention into lobbying for a greater cause, to get the law changed for the benefit of the greater hills community in the future.
“Now is the time for them to be co-ordinating other hills communities and working with the council to lobby to have planning laws changed to legally prevent any future development of this nature occurring in our lovely and unique hills environment,” he said.
“It is the old cliché that sometimes you lose a battle to win a war and if having a McDonald’s store at Tecoma is the price to pay for a larger victory it will not be the end of the world.
“The community will become used to it, some will welcome it, most residents will patronise it at some time and the protesters can exercise their democratic rights and boycott it, and if they succeed in changing planning laws McDonald’s Tecoma will become a symbol of their resistance.”