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Conflict rises as Taco Bell has nearly finished construction

Victoria Stevens
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Man waiting in line at Taco Bell.   "Taco Bell" by JeepersMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Taco Bell is set to complete construction by the end of the year but some locals aren’t impressed there’s another fast food restaurant so close to others.

Linwood has a fast-food issue with popular chains all situated within one area and Taco Bell will soon add to the list.

The new Mexican eatery will be built next to KFC outside Eastgate Mall, within 200 metres of McDonald's, Burger King, and Eastgate’s food court.

Local resident Johanna Van Aalst said there is a reason why fast-food giants target low socio-economic neighbourhoods.

“The neighbourhoods don’t get richer from new jobs, having more choice of food and competition is not a prize worth fighting for. It’s ‘fools gold’ that changes the conversation away from the real issues.”

Jane Heatherington, clinical director for Linwood Medical, said it saddened her to see long queues in and out of Eastgate Mall.

She said unhealthy diets can lead to mood issues, diabetes, arthritis, heart and kidney diseases, which were becoming increasingly more detected. 

“Limiting fast-food locations near schools has made a difference overseas. Countries whose government acts can make a difference.”

She would like to see the Christchurch City Council do something to help but thinks it is a government-level issue. 

Chair of the Linwood-Central-Heathcote community board Alexandra Davids said there had been excitement in the community but she worried it would increase the obesity rate. 

New Zealand’s obesity rate is one of the highest in the world with around one in three adults aged 15 and over considered obese.

Children living in the most socio-economically deprived areas were 2.7 percent more likely to be obese.

She said there were far too many situated in one area and far too close to schools.

“I always have concerns around more fast-food outlets in low socio-economic areas especially when it’s so saturated. I worry about obesity levels and not enough education is blindsiding healthy food options.”

Davids felt the council should change the district plan to limit the number of food outlets in low socio-economic areas.

Linwood has a littering issue and more fast-food restaurants would only add to it, so Davids suggested Taco Bell conducted daily clean-ups to solve this problem.

However, not all Linwood residents are hating on the store, some are fans of Mexican food and are excited to see the east side finally get some attention.

Local resident, Helen Cox, said she was excited as it would bring more shoppers and give people a chance for more job opportunities.

On the inner east-burbs Facebook page, Chloe Gibson commented that it is not the takeaway's fault New Zealanders consume a lot of fast-food, and it would give a variety of food on the east side.

“A lot of people seem to complain like it’s the takeaway's fault people get obese or other health problems, but it’s not, people can still choose not to eat it, there is no force-feeding them.”

She also said it gave teenagers more jobs, especially those who struggled to find work.

“This would be a good starting point for them to learn more work ethic and get their foot in the door before becoming an adult."

Some Taco Bell enthusiasts were concerned there wouldn't be enough parking outside the building.

Taco Bell New Zealand has been approached for comment.