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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Witch hunt claim over Fingal Head cafe

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Supporters of a popular cafe-gallery at Fingal Head, owned by the sister of Tweed Cr Katie Milne and facing closure over disputed compliance issues with Tweed Shire Council, claim a political witch hunt is behind the move.

Tomorrow councillors will decide the fate of the Sheoak Shack which, if closed down, will leave scores of local artists and musicians without an income.

A Facebook page called Help Save Sheoak Shack was formed recently and dozens of people have packed the council chambers to hear appeals in support of the cafe over the past couple of months, including one by a former senior council officer.

The cafe/gallery has been operating on the site without a hitch for more than 10 years but this year council staff have taken owner Andrea McKay to task over what they say are compliance issues related to insufficient car parking, structures within the road reserve, extended trading hours and live music.

Last Thursday, professional musician Greg Manson told councillors during community access the Sheoak was the only venue in the shire for the style of original music performed by his band, which included a local Indigenous player who wrote songs inspired by the Tweed River.

‘It beggars belief that you’d tear the stage out to put car parks in, and why, with a business that has not received complaints, council is now punishing this place,’ Mr Manson said.

‘Why the hell are you beating on this small business trying to survive and putting us all out of work? My income would drop 50 per cent and council has already stopped live music there on Sundays.

No complaints

‘The question must be asked, why now when the place has been open for years with no complaints, why all of a sudden are you beating up on it?’

Mr Manson said the Fingal, Chinderah and Tweed communities would ‘miss out’ if the venue were forced to close, with many international backpackers and tourists attracted by the family-friendly, ‘funky riverside culture’.

A recent workshop with councillors came up with a proposal for Ms McKay to pay $60,000 for the construction of four roadside car-parking spaces in front of the riverside cafe/gallery.

But Ms McKay says the proposed parking at the front of the premises would block the riverside view, the ‘very reason the business was created’.

‘It also seems very unsafe to have cars reverse-parking on this corner. There seems to be no reason to build another formalised parking area in an area that is already well supplied with safer parking,’ she told Echonetdaily.

‘During our peak times (on Saturday evenings) the existing parking areas are rarely used by boaties or fishermen so there is never a shortage of parking. The area across the road has never been used for anything other than parking and there has never been a problem.

‘This seems almost as ridiculous as parking on site.’

Ms McKay said she had proposed to pay a parking contribution rate of $12,000, ‘which could be used for a worthwhile community benefit and leave the  parking area across the road’.

Council staff say councillors could either refuse the development consent for the venue outright due to ongoing issues, or defer it to allow Ms McKay the chance to provide further details in support of her claims, with a report brought back in October.

One supporter told Echonetdaily the move by council appeared to be a political witchhunt because the owner was the sister of the Greens’ Cr Milne.

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  1. Funny how Polglase, Youngblutt and their ilk turn a blind eye to any kind of regulation when it comes to their big developer mates/backers, but their pro business stance suddenly gets forgotten when a harmless locally owned small business happens to be owned by someone related to someone they don’t like. These immature, dangerous bullies are not fit for elected office

    • How true! Here is our chance to be rid of them September 8! Can’t believe they running again at their age, it is all about the ‘power’.
      Good luck Andrea today, and to all going with her, people ‘power’.

  2. This is ridiculous of TSC to consider parking either where the stage is or in front of the She Oak Shack [SOS]. The corner where the SOS lies is unsuitable for in/egress and would be an accident waiting to happen if TSC forced SOS to build parking spaces. Whereas there is more than sufficient parking available over the road as identified in this article.
    It does seem that council is targeting the owner as to being associated with the Greens councillor and if so, an enquiry needs to be implemented.

    • Why should the owner of this small business be subject to a different set of conditions than any other in the Tweed.
      All small businesses must comply with council rules or close. I know many who have been forced to spend thousands to keep their doors open.
      The council’s rules are often eroneous and draconian but they are rules that everyone must abide by.
      The owner of this establishment must abide by the rules or close the doors.

      • I am only seeking to amend a parking code to make this area of Fingal Head able to make a make a financial contribution for parking off-site. This seems to make good planning sense because the current “CBD” of Fingal has never been used as such whilst this area around the Sheoak has always operated as a commercial area and has plenty of parking.

  3. Why would council want to put people out of work when there has been absolutely no complaint against this business. Council should be encourageing business’ in this area to provide local employment to local people ie staff, artists and performers. where will they find work if this business is forced to close down. I go to this cafe at least 8-9 times a year, and have done for the last 4 years, take vistors and have never had a problem parking. It would be a tragedy if this wonderful venue was closed espically given we are trying to promote tourism and employment locally.

  4. Council’s parking regulations are absolutely ridiculous. I know of at least two businesses that have been forced to close because of this, in spite of there being more than adequate parking near the respective venues, especially during the specified hours of business. Council are just being ‘bloody-minded’. Unfortunately it’s the small businesses that are suffering, not those with mega-dollars.

  5. in regards to the accuracy of the above story. Firstly there has been a complaint about the breach of council regulations ( and not by a councilor past or present or council employee ) by the SOS in the way it is operated. Also Ms Mckay must have a short memory as to who has made the original complaint as she has asked people about the person that has made the complaint. Also as to the rules and regulations that Ms Mckay is in breach of, why should she be any different to any other business or industry in the shire. It appears that when someone else wants to operate a business that is not to her liking they are crusified to the letter of the law , but when she is involved all rules should be bent or changed to accommodate her wishes. As to the parking available over the road in the form of the boat ramp area it is my understanding that funds are drawn from the boating services (licences and registrations) as well as council funding to provide this facility for the boating public, as to the “peak period of parking been on saturday evening when there rarely any boaties or fishermen there”, what happens on the saturdays and sundays (when live music is been played) when people actually drive to the SOS where would the parking be then for the patrons, if not on council land. So why should this be made available to a private businesses. Cast your minds back to what has left the Tweed Shire in the last few years that would have bought income into the area then look at what was behind some of these events and businesses leaving the shire? I personally had been a resident of the Tweed since 1963 and attended local schools,participated at local sporting clubs,volunteer at local organisations as well as been the owner of 2 successful businesses on the Tweed and raised a family,but have recently closed my last business and moved interstate where things are more positive. If Ms Mckay was fair and open minded about the shire she would gladly abide by the rules and encourage other business into the area that may in turn bring people to her establishment instead of turning people away from the shire. Yes I made the complaint and it is completely legitimate as can be seen by visting the SOS website or by driving past the SOS and simply looking at the council approval for the SOS. It remains to be seen if this business is SUNK like other businesses on the Tweed have been. It is easy to see how people are led down the wrong path when it suites people to draw the attention away from the true facts.

    • Stephen, I do not know why you think I “crucified” your business ( which i assume was the wake boarding business). I have never lodged an objection to any business. Your business was rejected (because of the impact of wake on Tweed River Erosion) by the community association , the council officers and the majority of Councillors including Cr Milne. I am not Cr. Milne.

  6. From Sheoak Shack facebook site.., The Council are still undecided about the future of Sheoak Shack. They will finally be voting on Tuesday 21st August. If anyone can make it to the meeting at Council Chambers in Murwillumbah at 10.30 on 21/8/12 to show community support it will really make a difference. Please come if you value this business because we might have to close down if it all goes belly up. Long Live the Sheoak Shack. Thanks for your support and i hope we see you here again XXXXXXXX
    Please help to spread the word

  7. This is completely wrong. I live in Tasmania and visit the She Oak Shack everytime I come up with my sister.
    Even more than she is going to be having her wedding reception there in a few weeks. All this stuff has made her have to change times and has kept her on edge about whether the reception can even be held. This is completely wrong, not only is a business being targeted, but the local artists and customers (such as my sister) are being put out greatly over this.
    Shame on the Tweed Shire Council, what childlike game do they think they’re doing!

  8. I’d say both previous comments are correct.., THE ANSWER: another administrator to run tsc while the present incumbents rationalise their thinking.Only this time a bit longer, like10 years.

  9. the Sheoak Shack is a long established and unique venue that has created an excellent cultural hub and meeting place in Fingal Head. It is as a wonderful place to relax and eat, renown for showcasing many musicians and artists from around the region.
    There is obviously some other story we have yet to hear as to why a much appreciated local gallery-cafe is being singled out for what appears to be singularly unwarranted harassment.

  10. Well Mr Manning (August 20, 2012), I’m sorry you and your friends feel you were ‘crusified’ for being refused your application for wakeboarding on the Tweed River, but you will find it was Council who refused you, not the proprietor of the SOS. She was but one of many Tweed residents opposed to an activity completely at odds with our sensitive riverine environment.

    You appear to have gotten the wrong end of the stick on various matters. Tweed Shire Council did not provide the ‘new’ boatharbour and boat ramp; it was built by a previous state government, when Laurie Brereton was Minister for Public Works. Council only maintains the facility. (And by the way, 95% of the boaties have QLD number plates. Good to see Queenslanders enjoying our largesse.)

    And as for the absurd situation that patrons who dine in the ‘Council’ section of the SOS (and for which they pay TSC a licence fee) are allowed to park safely across Fingal road, though others are not.??? This area is an unused part of the reserve: people don’t picnic there, don’t walk there, plain don’t use it except for parking because there are mangroves and large casuarinas on the river side, an uneven, grassy section on the other and a bumpy gravel track to the boat hire facility on the other.

    Other oddities in your comment hardly rate an explanation and if you followed anything of this sorry saga, you would know that the proprietor has been trying for quite some time to negotiate a suitable outcome with TSC.

    Not nice to see such a vengeful attitude, but glad to know that you’re happily relocated interstate to a more accommodating place. Maybe the GCCC allows people licence to stuff up their river?


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