More than 10,000 cannabis plants were found and 47 people arrested through the Eastern District as part of an annual police drugs bust over recent weeks.
Nineteen people were arrested in the Gisborne and East Coast area. Another five were arrested in Wairoa.
The operation spanned the outdoor cannabis season and covered much of the East Cape, Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. Police found 15 firearms during the operation.
Detective Senior Sergeant Sean Hansen said while numbers of plants were down on previous cannabis operations in the district, the 10,500 plants recovered this year were significant.
“We are pleased at the total number of plants found this year and we believe we have made a major dent in the cannabis trade in the region,” Mr Hansen said.
“We will have hurt a number of growers financially and hopefully they are starting to get the message.”
The 47 people arrested are facing a variety of charges, including cultivating cannabis, possession of cannabis for supply, producing cannabis oil, possession of utensils and unlawful possession of firearms.
Police targeted mainly rural growing areas.
Some rural residents said they had police run through their properties to access nearby maize paddocks.
Mr Hansen said maize crops proved popular for some cannabis growers.
A number of houses were also searched.
An aircraft and helicopter were used to identify the cannabis plots. This included a police spotter plane seen circling over the Whareratas over the weekend.
Plants were either removed by hand or sprayed with a chemical over a period of several weeks.
Mr Hansen said police would continue to put pressure on cannabis growers and the bust was just part of a wider focus on drugs.
The operation included staff from Corrections, Ministry of Fisheries, IRD and Ministry of Justice.