Wednesday, 2 June 2004 - 2:00pm |

Hydroponics cannabis operation uncovered

3 min read

Eight people have been arrested and restraining orders placed on a commercial company, a residential house and personal bank accounts as a result of police uncovering a hydroponics cannabis cultivation and supply operation in Wellington and the Kapiti Coast.

The arrests follow the police investigation into the activities of a Wellington hydroponics supply business, its two directors and others involved with cannabis supply in the region.

More than 60 police were involved in today’s operation with police executing search warrants on one commercial hydroponics business in Wellington, and several houses in Lyall Bay, Hataitai, Tawa, Porirua and Otaihanga.

Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Darrin Thomson, head of the Wellington Police District Organised Crime Unit, says the scale of the alleged offending uncovered is significant.

During searches today police found:

• a hydroponics cannabis cultivation operation with significant numbers of cannabis plants growing in several rooms of a house in Otaihanga. A 60 litre drum full of pounds and pounds of bagged cannabis was found. The exact amount of cannabis is yet to be determined. One man was arrested at the house.

• A medium sized hydroponics cannabis operation set up in the attic of a Kilbirnie house. Several pounds of cannabis were found, along with a small quantity of hash. One man was arrested at the house.

• A medium sized growing operation in two rooms of a second house in Kilbirnie. Ten large cannabis plants were found. Police are seeking a man in relation to this operation.

• A smaller growing operation in a Lyall Bay house, along with low grade cannabis and alcohol in quantities which suggest it was about to be used in the production of cannabis oil.

• A .357 calibre handgun, a rifle and ammunition were recovered during the search of the commercial hydroponics business premises.

"The Proceeds of Crime restraining order which we have taken out against the company is a rarity in New Zealand," he says. " We believe this may be the first time a company has been charged for cultivation offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"This action was taken to ensure the Proceeds of Crime Act provisions could be invoked."

The Wellington High Court yesterday granted ex-parte restraining orders which in effect mean that the Official Assignee now manages the commercial hydroponics business until the issues are resolved in court. The Official Assignee also has control of the house in Otaihanga, Kapiti Coast, and the personal bank accounts of two of the people arrested.

The orders were sought because police allege the assets of approximately $350,000, were accumulated as a result of criminal offending.

The seven men and one woman arrested so far face charges relating to their involvement in the commercial cultivation and trafficking of cannabis.

They are expected to appear in the Wellington District Court tomorrow.

Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Thomson says the investigation started because police in Wellington have noticed a shift from outdoor cultivation of cannabis to indoor hydroponic set-ups

"This was an investigation aimed at hampering the large scale supply of cannabis to the market," he says.

"We’ll continue to focus on the top end supply of cannabis, combining investigations such as today’s operation with eradication programmes.

"It’s only by targeting the suppliers that we can have any chance to reduce the amount of cannabis available and lessen the opportunities for people, particularly kids, to get into drugs.

"In Wellington we don’t have the climate that suits outdoor growing at the top-end of the cannabis market, and suppliers favour the more reliable quality and quantities obtained through growing plants indoors."