A slew of police drugs raids has led to 261 arrests and the destruction of about 38,600 plants in the Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Bay of Plenty.
The annual operations involved police officers from across the eastern North Island, from the bottom of the Coromandel peninsula to central Hawke’s Bay with assistance from Customs, Ministry of Fisheries and the Inland Revenue Department.
The raids were carried out over the past few weeks as part of the nationwide anti-cannabis operation codenamed “Kristy”.
Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne police arrested 88 people on a variety of charges, including cultivating, selling and possessing cannabis, after seizing 18,600 plants and finding 27 guns.
Detective Senior Sergeant Sean Hansen said his officers had executed about 50 search warrants, finding many plots on isolated farmland or in deep bush.
“Growers go to a lot of trouble with their crops and invest heavily in keeping the plants healthy and thriving,” he said.
He wouldn’t comment or identify which gangs were involved, though said officers had encountered several established criminal organisations during the operation.
Police in the Bay of Plenty arrested 173 people and seized and destroyed 20,000 plants. They also took 10 guns and found a methamphetamine laboratory.
Thirty of those arrested were facing drug dealing charges, Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Anderson said.
“This once again indicates cannabis growing is a large-scale business operation for some criminals, who use a wide network of contacts to run that business,” he said.
“This is not just a few plants growing in a small patch of bush – these are major cultivation set-ups with man-traps and proper fencing designed to keep intruders out.”