Would you like pigeon poo with that?
Feathered diners at a McDonald's restaurant in Wellington have driven a customer to lay complaints with the city council.
Wellington man Vinod Mistry is a fan of the fast-food franchise, but does not want to share his table and fries with a pigeon.
The Lambton Quay McDonald's was a haven for hungry pigeons and the Wellington City Council needed to force the fast-food giant to keep them out of the indoor dining area, Mistry said. The birds make their way to the second floor via an internal escalator.
However, the council said it was up to the company to deal with the pigeons and it has repeatedly asked for the issue to be dealt with for six years.
McDonald's said it was working with the council to fix the problem.
Mistry said he made two separate complaints last week about the pigeons in the restaurant.
The council appeared to swoop on a small business if there was a squeak of a mouse, rat or spider in their premises, he said.
But it appeared that, when it came to the feathered vermin, the council was turning a blind eye.
"Pigeons are just as much of a health risk as other animals. You never know when one flying around the restaurant or sitting on table could put droppings in your food."
Council's public health operations team leader Andrew Taylor confirmed there was a health risk, but only if diners inadvertently ate pigeon poo with their meal.
"Bird poo can contain bacteria such as salmonella, so it is not safe. But the person would have to ingest some of the bacteria through direct contamination or hand contact," Taylor said.
The council had been trying to get McDonald's to keep pigeons out of the premises since 2008, he said. "Every time we've spoken to them about the pigeon issue, we have been told by management that they will address the issue."
The restaurant had tried different methods, such as a distress-call speaker at the entrance and lowering the entry-space height to the food premises, but none had proven to be effective, Taylor said.
Council staff would be contacting McDonald's this week to discuss how they proposed to rectify the matter so "these ongoing complaints cease".
McDonald's spokesman Kim Bartlett said pigeons were a widespread issue in the Wellington CBD and the Lambton Quay McDonald's had taken a number of measures to address the problem, including "working with an external company on effectively managing the presence of the birds".
The council said the company needed to get its premises to meet the food-hygiene regulations. "The fact of the matter is, their place is affected and they need to do something about it," Taylor said.
The Dominion Post