In a world of earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and civil wars, Havelock North faces what many in the village regard as the ultimate disaster … the arrival of McDonald’s.
Last week’s announcement that McDonald’s has finally lodged its consent application to build an outlet at the main entry point to Havelock North has stirred up all sorts of reactions — outright disgust and horror from some … to ridicule from others that HN residents are being a bit precious about the whole thing.
In any situation where citizen emotions run high, our local officials can respond one of two ways.
Path #1: They can run for cover — duck the issue entirely or try to slip the matter through the process with as little visibility and public participation as possible … often following the letter of the law, but disrespecting public apprehensions.
Path #2: Or they can engage the public pro-actively — explain clearly what’s going on, and make an effort to mollify concerns … some of which might turn out to be either uninformed or addressable.
It appears the Hastings Council hasn’t yet made up its mind which path it will follow.
Last week, BayBuzz queried the two Havelock North HDC Councillors — Wayne Bradshaw and Scott Henderson — on whether they expected “any form of public consultation” on the McDonald’s issue.
Henderson seemed to believe that was a matter for McDonald’s to decide. He replied: “I’m not sure. McDonalds may consider this once they have their answer from Resource Consent Division of Council. You would have to ask them.”
Bradshaw replied: “I would imagine only if the Council says the Development must be publicly notified.”
I thought I was throwing these elected representatives a softball! But neither Councillor exactly leapt off the bench to champion an opportunity for their constituents to ventilate on the matter … and perhaps shape at least the look and feel of this latest addition to HN’s culinary menu. Better to lie low and avoid being put on the grill.
That leaves the HDC staff to make the call as to whether any sort of either official notification and submission process, or informal town meeting, should be initiated.
For its part, McDonald’s could show a bit of ‘good neighbor’ concern about how the locals felt about its plans, and initiate its own forum to engage the public. Perhaps McDonald’s believes the smell of fresh burgers wafting through the Havelock North CBD will soon enough overcome any initial bad tastes its presence engenders in the community.
If so, that’s poor PR judgment on the part of McDonald’s … including local owners of the franchise.
It’s bad enough — and probably unavoidable — that putting a McD’s in Havelock North, especially at this prime entry location, would offend some sizable segment of the local population. But it’s bad form to rub salt in the wound by ignoring community concern and avoiding public dialogue (much of which might relate to ‘in what form’ and ‘where’, as opposed to ‘whether’). Not the right way for a new resident to arrive in town.
Save the salt for the burgers and fries, McD’s and HDC!