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Police net $2m worth of cannabis plants in raid
Further arrests could be made

MARCUS ANSELM
marcus.anselm@age.co.nz

Nine people were arrested and millions of dollars’ worth of cannabis, firearms, and thousands in cash were seized in South Wairarapa this week in a police operation.

Police said those arrested would face charges that included cultivation and possession of cannabis, and possession of unlicensed firearms.

Wairarapa Police Area Commander Scott Miller said on Thursday more than 700 cannabis plants were seized from properties in Featherston and Martinborough, and surrounding areas.

Four unlicensed firearms were seized, and one person was charged with presenting a weapon at officers.

Miller said the plants would have a wholesale value of at least $3000 each – meaning about $2 million worth of cannabis had removed from the supply chain.

The street value would be even higher, Miller said.

Police flew in a helicopter over the area on the weekend and then targeted suspicious crops on Monday and Tuesday this week.

More than 100 plants were found in a Featherston house, Miller said.

He said the offending was not necessarily gang-related.

“Gangs are more likely to buy cannabis in bulk and sell, although they may have people set up to grow.

“But none of the ones we found here are gang-related. Just individual entrepreneurs.”

Miller said some growers had planted on neighbouring properties, or public land.

“We encourage people on rural property to know what is on their property,” he said. “Because it’s not uncommon for the police to knock on their door and they know nothing about it.

“We’d come across people that haven’t put it there themselves.

“Often people turn a blind eye, but you could be losing your property as well.”

Police had locked down three houses in South Wairarapa.

A police asset recovery team would search the three homes for property bought through illegal assets and for evidence of money laundering.

Those found guilty of profiting from criminal acts were at risk of long prison sentences, losing their houses, and their vehicles.

“What you have to remember is [that] they only got those vehicles through illegal means by selling cannabis,” Miller said.

It was ironic so much water was being used to cultivate cannabis plants during a time of outdoor water bans throughout Wairarapa, he said.

“I must tell the local mayor we’ve saved a lot of water.”

The inquiry team was following up on other evidence gathered during the operation and further arrests could be made.

  • Police urged anyone who had concerns about illicit drug activity, or who saw anything suspicious, to contact 105 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.