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Nestled in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges 40km east of Melbourne, the village of Tecoma is home to a community who have chosen tall forests, clean air and strong local connections over the mass development, noise and pollution of the inner suburbs. Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the Dandenong Ranges to marvel at the pristine forests and beautiful natural environment.
For three years, the people of Tecoma and the Dandenong Ranges have been campaigning against the McDonald’s Corporation. McDonald’s have failed to listen to the voices of our community and ignored the unanimous vote of our local council, using their virtually unlimited financial reserves to fight the council ruling in VCAT and build a McDonald’s in Tecoma, taking unethical legal action against community members in an attempt to silence their protests.
After years of campaigning, many long months of community action and costly delays in construction, the unwelcome outlet has finally opened it doors for business – but the battle is not over. We will not surrender the unique experiences our community has to offer, and we will continue the fight.
The No McDonald’s in the Dandenong Ranges campaign has been so successful that we are now ‘exporting the revolution’ to other communities who find themselves under the attack of cooperate bullies, helping them stand up for the communities, environment and live styles they love.
Timeline of the most significant moments of the No McDonald’s in Tecoma campaign
March 2011 – McDonald’s planning application submitted
– McDonald’s submit Planning Application to Yarra Ranges Shire
6th May 2011 – TVAG public meeting
- TVAG organise public meeting (250 attend). This was the first of many large community meetings to be held regarding the proposed McDonald’s site over the following 3 years.
8th September 2011 – Shire of Yarra Ranges Information Session
- The Shire of Yarra Ranges hosted a drop-in information evening. Planners, urban designers and traffic engineers from both the Yarra Ranges Council and McDonald’s were there to provide information on the application.
11th September 2011 – TVAG public meeting re: Objection process
- TVAG called another Public Meeting to provide advice to residents and Hills visitors on how to best focus their objections, and to show community unity in our objection to this inappropriate development proposal. (150 attend)
September – October 2011 – Objections submitted to Council
- A record number of 1170 written objections to local Council
11th October 2011 – Council vote on proposed development
- Local Councillors met and voted on the proposed development. A reception centre had to be hired to stage this meeting as a record number of 650 local residents attended to hear the decision and once again voice their objections. The Shire of Yarra Ranges Councillors unanimously rejected the proposal.
22nd December 2011 – McDonald’s announce VCAT appeal
- McDonald’s announced, just days before Christmas, that it would challenge Yarra Ranges Council’s decision to refuse its planning application for a Burwood Highway store in Tecoma. Objectors were given just two weeks to submit additional objections to VCAT.
January 2012 – Objections submitted to VCAT
- Over 300 objections from community members and organisations, including Tecoma Primary School, were submitted to VCAT.
6th – 13th August 2012 – VCAT hearing
VCAT hearing conducted.
10th October 2012 – VCAT ruling
VCAT ruling announced. VCAT overruled Yarra Ranges Council’s decision, deeming the overwhelming objections of the local community as “irrelevant“, and granted McDonald’s planning permission.
14th October 2012 – Community Garden planting
Within 4 days of the VCAT ruling being passed, approximately 600 local residents united to ‘Reclaim Tecoma’ and planted a Community Garden at the proposed site in protest of the devastating VCAT ruling and the McDonald’s Corporation’s refusal to take ‘No’ for an answer. Members of the community mobilised themselves via use of social media and the ‘No Maccas in the Hills’ facebook page in order to organise this action.
14th October 2012 – 11th November 2012 – Community Garden occupation
A month long 24 hour peaceful vigil was maintained at the garden with community members maintaining a 24/7 presence at the site.
11th November 2012 – Police eviction of Community Garden
Police eviction. Approximately a dozen Police officers were utilised to remove one sole female protester who was present at the site at the time. Community garden fenced off from the public.
November 2012 – Supreme Court Appeal investigations
The community next sought independent legal advice from Barristers and Solicitors specialising in planning, and a high profile Melbourne QC, in order to establish grounds for a Supreme Court appeal. Grounds for appeal were established, and the community sent hundreds of letters and emails to Yarra Ranges Councillors requesting that they appeal the decision at the Supreme Court. A motion for a Supreme Court appeal was raised at the next Council meeting, in response to the community’s concerns, but was in turn rejected by a majority of Councillors who claimed that appealing the ruling at the Supreme Court would not be a “responsible” way to spend Council funds that could not be justified.
24th October 2012 – James Merlino MP raises Tecoma issue in Parliament, calls on Planning Minister Matthew Guy to “intervene”
- Deputy State Opposition Leader James Merlino raised the issue in State Parliament, calling on the State Planning Minister Matthew Guy to intervene and “ensure that the number of objections to a proposal are given appropriate weight at Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearings“. Mr Merlino also directed his concerns to the Minister regarding the proposed McDonald’s development in Tecoma, describing the VCAT decision as “disgraceful” and that it “in no way reflects the views of the community or Yarra Ranges Shire Council“, adding that “what may be appropriate in a fully urban environment is simply not appropriate in an area such as the Dandenongs“.
15th November 2012 – Tecoma delegates meet with Planning Minister Matthew Guy
- Four delegates from the Tecoma community met with Minister Guy in order to express resident’s concerns regarding the proposed Tecoma development. The delegates requested that planning overlays be put in place in the Dandenong Ranges in order to restrict further inappropriate developments in the future and asked that the Minister lead a push to have VCAT legislation amended to recognise community objections as a relevant factor in hearings. During this meeting, the Minister emphasised that areas like the Dandenong Ranges carry strategic advantages for their distinctive character, stating: “I am becoming more and more concerned that the character of certain areas needs to be taken into account” and advised that he would consider a submission from the Shire of Yarra Ranges which articulates a new design and development overlay for the Dandenong Ranges. The Minister agreed to a second meeting with the delegates to discuss the issue further. The Minister also advised that he was happy to meet with representatives from the McDonald’s Corporation to discuss the issues surrounding the proposed Tecoma development. McDonald’s declined this offer.
12th December 2012 – State Government petition
A written petition calling on the State Government to change the planning laws in the Dandenong Ranges obtained 3775 names, addresses and signatures from members of the local community in just one month and was tabled in State Parliament.
November – December 2012 – Door knock survey ‘9/10 say NO’
A door-knock survey of 80% of the adult residents of Tecoma was conducted in November/December 2012. Every household in Tecoma was door-knocked. All households that were not home in the first instance were door-knocked a second time during the following fortnight. One question was asked “Are you for or against the proposed McDonald’s development in Tecoma?” The results were overwhelming, with 88.2% of Tecoma’s residents stating that they are against the development (1085 people), 7% didn’t know or didn’t care (86 people) and a lowly 4.8% were for it (59 people). Names, addresses and signatures were obtained from all adult residents who stated their opposition to the development in order to further validate these findings
December 2012 – Photo Project
- A Photo Project was launched asking all of our Facebook followers to take photos of themselves holding “No McDonald’s in Tecoma” signs at various landmarks around Melbourne, Australia and the World.
4th February 2013 – Gnomeageddon McDonald’s Headquarters
Two hundred Gnomes gathered on the steps of McDonald’s Melbourne Headquarters, placards in hand, in protest of McDonald’s refusal to communicate with the human inhabitants of the mountains and their relentless intent to destroy the Gnome’s habitat. The Gnome protest received a huge amount of media attention with two major news channels, the Age newspaper, 3CR radio, and one of the regular tv morning shows covering the story and footage for days after the event.
2nd March 2013 – ‘The Hills March Against Maccas’
‘The Hills March Against Maccas’ rally was held. 3000 Hills’ residents, and additional supporters from all over Melbourne, gathered and marched from neighbouring Belgrave to Tecoma to show their opposition to the proposed development. This was by far the largest rally the Dandenong Ranges have ever seen, with musicians, speakers and countless volunteers donating their time to make the day a resounding success, and to show the McDonald’s Corporation, once and for all, that they are not welcome in Tecoma.
29th March 2013 – CNN Coverage- Tecoma goes global
Global news giant CNN covered the story of our David and Goliath battle against the McDonald’s Corporation. News of what was happening in the little Australian town of Tecoma reached a potential audience of 10?s of millions worldwide and continued to spread. News broadcasters from around the globe quickly followed CNN’s lead with over 100 news stations and websites from all over the US, UK, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, Greece, China, Japan, Malaysia, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Czech Republic, Belgium, Turkey, Hungary, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Dominican Republic and the Middle East reporting or publishing links to our story.
The Twittersphere also went crazy with the story being tweeted and retweeted by people from all over the world, reaching over 10 MILLION Twitter users! CNN tweeted the story to just under 8 million followers, as did Your Anon News to over 900,000 followers. Tweets of particular note also came from Morgan Spurlock of ‘Supersize Me’ fame, Christine Assange (Mother of Julian Assange) and even Father Bob Maguire.
22nd of April 2013 – Tecoma delegates meeting with McDonald’s Reps
Over a thousand emails, letters and Facebook comments had been directed to the McDonald’s Corporation asking that they meet with the community to hear their concerns, and requesting that McDonald’s retract their intentions to build where they are unwelcome and unwanted. After a long wait; and only days after the internationally widespread CNN coverage, the McDonald’s Corporation responded and agreed to meet with a delegation of six community members to hear their concerns.
At the three and a half hour meeting held at the Melbourne Exhibition Conference Centre on the 22nd of April 2013, the six community delegates made it abundantly clear to prospective franchisee James Currie, and the McDonald’s representatives present, that a McDonald’s outlet will never be welcome in Tecoma or anywhere in the Dandenong Ranges. They spoke of the passion of this community, and the uniqueness of the area, explaining that this movement continues to grow exponentially as opposition against their proposed development increases. The delegates successfully painted a very clear picture for the McDonald’s corporation of how protests would continue if they persist with this inappropriate and unwelcome development.
McDonald’s representatives were asked to consider attending a community meeting in Tecoma in order to hear the concerns of the wider community. The delegates were advised that this would be an ‘action point’ taken from this meeting for feedback within the McDonald’s corporation head office and a response on this request would be given at a later date – no such response was received. An invitation for McDonald’s CEO Catriona Noble to meet with representatives from all three levels of government (council, state and federal)who had offered to discuss the Tecoma issue with the CEO was also noted as an ‘action point’ for further discussion and feedback. Yet again, no response was received with regards to this request and no further communication was made between the McDonald’s corporation and the community from this point onwards.
1st July 2013 – Work begins on site
McDonald’s building contractors ‘Lanskey Constructions’ attend the site and begin erecting hoardings. Protesters rushed to the site to begin peacefully resisting and blockading. Scores of police and McDonald’s security worked to secure entry to the site by workers and vehicles.
1st July 2013 – Roof occupation begins
A number of protesters also began what was to become a four week occupation of the roof of the Old Dairy.
1st July 2013 – December 2013 – Community Blockade begins
- Community members blockade and occupy the area surrounding the site on a daily basis continuously for 5 months. All contractors and workers attempting to enter the site were informed of the Victorian Trades Hall Council’s stance, trucks were blockaded and a constant presence was maintained at the site, 6 days a week, by hundreds of members of the community on a rotating basis.
1st July onwards
Media presence at the site on a daily basis for many weeks. Multiple live crosses by evening and breakfast news, major newspaper coverage, radio interviews on a daily basis.
3rd July 2013 – CFMEU remove workers
The CFMEU pulled all its unionised workers off site, citing respect for the rights of the community to protest and OHS concerns.
4th July 2013 – VTHC release official statement
The Victorian Trades Hall Council, and the Building Industry Group, provided an official statement asking unionised workers not to work on the site citing respect for the rights of the community to protest and OH&S concerns.
16th July 2013 – Tecoma 8 writs begin
McDonald’s began issuing writs seeking injunctions and unspecified damages and costs against 8 protesters, now known as the Tecoma 8.
18th July 2013 – Tecoma 8 interim injunctions granted
McDonald’s were granted an interim injunction in the Supreme Court that included not only “the 8” but also including all “unnamed” individuals who had obstructed access to the site or trespassed between the dates of July 1st and July 17th, excluding them from certain areas around the protest site and restricting what they could say on social media. The civil liberties implications for this law suit and injunction were serious enough that Maurice Blackburn offered pro bono legal representation to the Tecoma 8.
28th July 2013 – March/Rally in support of Tecoma 8 and Roof Angel/Roof Girl occupation begins
Over 4000 people flooded the streets of Tecoma in a second rally against McDonald’s and in support of the Tecoma 8. By the end of the day a second roof occupation had began with our “Roof Angel” a lone young female protestor evading police and security and making it onto the roof. She was replaced later in the week by the equally brave “Roof Girl”, who managed to stay on the roof for over a week.
6th August 2013 – Major Police operation to remove Roof Girl
At 4am a major police operation began with approximately 60-80 members of the Public Order Response Team moving in to clear the site. Whilst rows of police escorted trucks, workers and equipment in, the Search and Rescue team removed “Roof Girl” from her week long rooftop vigil.
7th – 10th August 2013 – Demolition of buildings begins
After long delays caused by the ongoing roof occupation, community blockade and trade unions’ stance on the site, demolition work began. Over a period of a few days, the community watched as Saffron Cottage crumbled, followed by the old Hazelvale Dairy, and finally Hippie Haven.
31st August 2013 – No Maccas Flash Mob
Our No Maccas Flash Mob struck Knox City Shopping Centre food court. A large group of local residents had been practising for weeks for this surprise performance which was staged alongside McDonald’s Knox City outlet. The song ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ from Les Miserables was adapted to reflect our ongoing battle with McDonald’s.
The flash mob video was spread far and wide, with over 34,000 views in less than a week, and was also picked up by one of the largest and popular news aggregators in the US, The Huffington Post.
**The flashmob was later invited to perform a reprise of this performance, on November 22nd 2013, for the opening of a special show marking Melbourne icon Rod Quantock’s 45 years in show business.
**And, on May 26th 2014, the flash mob were invited by organisers to perform at the ‘Communities in Control 2014’ conference, at which dignitaries such as former High Court Justice Michael Kirby and former Prime Minister Prime Minister Julia Gillard were presenters. An hour long presentation regarding the Tecoma battle was also presented by campaign spokesperson Garry Muratore.
14th September 2013 – Federation Square Rally
Hundreds of people from the hills, and all over Melbourne converged to once again say NO to the proposed McDonald’s Tecoma outlet. Headed up by Mr Rod Quantock, we saw guest speakers, singers, musicians, gnome fashion parades and a beautiful short film consisting of footage of the campaign which was on constant display on the Fed Square big screen for the following month after the rally.
September 2013 – Chicago
After an incredibly successful online fundraising campaign initiated by Change.org, who had been promoting the campaign via it’s mailing lists for a number of months, and facilitated by Indiegogo.com. The campaign raised a whopping $40,000 in just a short few weeks in order to send four campaign delegates to McDonald’s US headquarters in Chicago. The original fundraising goal was $2500, which was exceeded in just the first 45 mins of the online Indiegogo fundraiser being launched.
Along the way the delegates captured the attention of the US media leading the nightly news two nights in a row, appearing on breakfast TV, radio talk-shows, business TV networks and daily newspapers. The trip also garnered an enormous amount of Australian press coverage with many live crosses to tv news outlets back in Australia and general coverage by multiple radio and newspaper outlets.
12th September 2013 – Chicago – Chicago Tribune advertisement
The campaign took out a full page advertisement in the Chicago Tribune Newspaper calling on McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson to retract McDonald’s intentions to build in Tecoma.
16th September 2013 – Chicago – Kangageddon
In the delegation’s first media call it was decided to install around 30 blow-up kangaroos holding placards and signs in front of the ‘Rock and Roll’ McDonald’s outlet in downtown Chicago.
18th September 2013 – Chicago – Petition delivered to McDonald’s Corporate Headquarters
The delegation delivered the Change.org petition, consisting of 97,030 signatures, directly to McDonald’s Corporate headquarters in Oak Brook Chicago. CEO Don Thompson did not come down to meet with the delegates, as had been requested, and the two McDonald’s representatives that were sent down (one of which was a Corporate Responsibility Rep) refused to shake hands or introduce themselves, whilst instructing a security guard to accept the petition from the delegates. There was also a large US press presence at the hand over.
20th September 2013 – Chicago – Fight for 15
After a very busy week the delegates had one last engagement to complete before flying home later in the day. They had organised to meet with ‘The Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago’ who are running the ‘Fight for 15 – Lucha por 15’ WOCC campaign trying to get corporations, including McDonald’s, to pay a fair and equitable wage for their workers. The delegates had the privilege of telling Tecoma’s story and hearing theirs.
(*This is the same organisation currently getting worldwide news coverage for organising the recent fast food workers strikes across the globe.)
24th September 2013 – Change.org petition
– Change.org petition reaches 100,000 signatures.
29th October 2013 – Tecoma 8/McDonald’s Supreme Court Mediation
Julian Burnside QC, representatives of Maurice Blackburn and the Tecoma 8 attend a court appointed mediation session with McDonald’s legal representatives Norton Rose. During this 10 hour mediation, of which all legal representation by Mr Burnside and Maurice Blackburn was provided pro bono, an agreement was reached that all costs and damages sought by McDonald’s against the T8 would be dropped. The injunction would continue until July 1st, but no further court action would be taken on the condition that the T8 would continue to adhere to the rules imposed by the injunction.
7th April 2014 – McDonald’s Opening Day
Hundreds of locals were present on the day, carrying signs, singing songs, playing music, and letting McDonald’s know that we are not going away. Once again, the police presence at the store opening was excessive with Public Order Response Team members and local Police flanking the building on all sides. A peaceful presence was maintained throughout the day, from 6am in the morning, and into the night.
14th April 2014 – C126 Planning Amendment approved
The council amendment, which is now in effect, ensures new commercial developments respond to a town’s existing character and enhance amenity. Buildings and works that comprise drive-through sales facilities are discouraged in six Dandenong Ranges towns, including Tecoma.
This amendment came about as a result of the Tecoma delegates meeting with Planning Minister Matthew Guy, in November 2012, in which changes to the planning scheme to provide further protection for townships in the Dandenong Ranges was requested, pressure from the community in general, and consultation with Yarra Ranges Shire representatives. Minister Guy then made the announcement in March 2013 that funding would be provided to Yarra Ranges Council in order to prepare a new planning statement, via a community consultation process, stating that the Yarra Ranges has “geographic and physical features which contribute to the quality of life for all Melburnians and Victorians” which he believed to be worthy of preservation for future generations.
Thankfully our community responded enthusiastically and wrote submissions for adjustments to the proposed planning amendment. In total 72 submissions were received of which 57 were pertaining specifically to drive thru restrictions.
McDonalds were quick to respond too, showing their hand that they did indeed have plans to develop further into the Dandenong Ranges. McDonald’s elected to employ the services of a town planner at the Public Hearing. He presented for a total of 45 minutes, arguing their case for the ongoing development of drive thru facilities and restrictions placed on built form.
The passing of the amendment, particularly the restrictions placed on drive thru facilities in the six towns to which that aspect of the amendment applies, was a big win for the campaign, and will hopefully lessen the likelihood of McDonalds and other fast food outlets to view the Yarra Ranges as a future development proposition.
4th May 2014 – Gnomeageddon 2014 – Guinness World Record Attempt
446 gNOmes came out in their finest gnome attire on what was a very cold, wet and rainy Hills’ day to challenge the world record. Although we only just fell 33 gnomes short (pardon the pun) of the world record, which stands at 479, we still set an Australian record. It was a fantastic, fun, family day and again showed that our community is united in their opposition. And the community have pledged to be back for gNOmeageddon 2015 to break the world record.