TEMPERS boiled over and accusations were shouted across the room when council debated the operating hours of the Real Juice Company on Tuesday night.
The contentious decision to allow the local citrus processing factory a fresh stint of 18-hour operating days while it works to comply with fire safety and waste water regulations attracted a rare crowd to council chambers.
Eleven of the 12 councillors agreed to give the business another three months to get its house in order, for fear of disadvantaging local citrus growers who would be left stranded without a buyer for their produce.
Sole dissenting councillor Bill Lancaster said the company was taking advantage of councillors' empathy for farmers.
"There is substantial non-compliance on very serious matters including the disposal of effluent, fire safety and hours of operation," Cr Lancaster said.
"We've been held to ransom by this company.
"If we make a decision to allow them to operate it's because we sympathise for the growers, but any time Real Juice is asked to come to account they talk and say they'll work with council but things just don't happen."
Factory neighbour John Dickens was appalled by what he perceived as unwarranted leniency, claiming the company directors had been given enough leeway and should be closed down while upgrades were carried out.
"As usual we're being railroaded and it's in the hands of our lawyers now and I just hope you guys (councillors) are prepared," Mr Dickens said.
"Your heavy handedness can't go on forever."
Mr Dickens cast aspersions on the integrity of the public gallery, who had turned out to support Real Juice managing director Tony Taliano.
"You think these are all proper growers? These are all just friends of the Talianos."
Mr Taliano didn't speak at the meeting, but told The Area News his company had encountered delays with componentry which was why a three-month grace period that expired last week wasn't enough.
"We're having a go to comply with council's regulations and we are getting there but the supply of materials has unfortunately delayed things," Mr Taliano said.
"We take all local citrus and we've made a commitment to this region to purchase as much fruit as we can from this area and our Sydney and interstate customers have got a tatse for the product from this area and they've taken a liking to it."
Mayor John Dal Broi was satisfied the company was demonstrating to council staff its genuine intention to make the necessary upgrades and urged councillors to approve the motion.
"I'm a farmer and I know what it's like when you're fruit's ready and there's nowhere to take it - pretty ordinary I can tell you."
Cr Dal Broi also made it clear he thought Mr Dickens had exaggerated complaints about Real Juice working on weekends based on the reports of council's compliance officer.