IN A bid to boost the local citrus industry, council has again turned a blind eye to a local juicing company that has been operating without approval for 10 years.
Real Juice Company has been juicing oranges since 2004 without ever obtaining a final occupation certificate from council and recent additions to the site have not met fire or waste water standards.
The company has also been issued with a stop work notice on a weighbridge being constructed without a development application.
However it was the matter of extended trading hours that spurred roughly 40 Real Juice employees and citrus farmers to pack out the usually sparse public viewing gallery at last week’s council meeting.
Less than a month since Real Juice was fined $6000 and mayor John Dal Broi said council was unlikely to grant the business another extension, the company has been given the green light for three more months of 18-hour days.
When pressed by councillors, Real Juice managing director Tony Taliano could not guarantee three months would be long enough to comply.
“It’s not an ideal situation and I accept that but over the years when we’ve had to work with companies like the Bartter brothers, Casella family and the Nugan group while they’ve been expanding,” Cr Dal Broi said.
“They took a punt on the weighbridge and got a fine for it and a stop work notice on that until they comply with the fire safety standards and waste water.”
Cr Dal Broi brought the matter before council at 4pm on the same day as the council meeting, preventing residents complaining of excessive noise from attending.
“I didn’t finalise discussions with staff until 4pm, which was not ideal, but I accept responsibility for that,” Cr Dal Broi said.
“However I had to bring the issue before council as the deadline for the extension was nearly up and the staff at the front office tried desperately to notify the complainants.”
Council’s director of sustainable development Neil Southorn has been monitoring the Real Juice situation to ensure council is not legally liable for a fire.
“The bottom line is should something go wrong council and council officers could be exposed by allowing the factory to operate without being fully compliant,” Mr Southorn said.
“And yes, the longer it goes on the greater the exposure to council.
“The only other thing we could do would be to obtain a court order for it to close, but we don’t want to put people out of work.”
Councillor Bill Lancaster was the lone dissenting voice around the table, taking it upon himself to stick up for residents who have been pleading for a good night’s sleep.
“I have been on council for five years and it seems every few months we have this issue of Real Juice’s non-compliance,” Cr Lancaster said.
“This motion ignores the rights of the nearby neighbours who have been complaining for years.”