Secret industrial hemp crop revealed on East Coast

For the past three months a crop of industrial hemp on the East Coast has been growing at a secret plot - not to protect the plants but to hide them from curious locals.

Newshub can now reveal the location is in Ruatoria and the public has helped harvest the plants, providing an exciting economic opportunity for the region.

It's no secret cannabis plants flourish along the East Coast thanks to the abundance of heat and sunshine. But unlike marijuana, industrial hemp is legal.

"There's been a mixed reaction, mostly positive," says Panapa Ehau of Hikurangi Enterprises Ltd. "There are some challenges with growers of marijuana as well."

That's because hemp can cross-pollenate with marijuana if planted too closely and dilute its potency.

The 5000 plants have been growing since December, and most of them are well over two metres high. They're hardy and require very little attention until it's time to harvest.

"Industrial hemp, when it's done for seeds, is usually done by machines, but because it's such a small crop and it's focused on relationships in the community, it's all being done by hand," Mr Ehau says.

That's so locals can touch and smell the plants and learn more about their potential.

The seeds will be used for oil, which is a health product, and the stalks and fibres for building projects along the coast. The roots will be used for medicinal products.

"Depending on some of the research and some of the avenues we're looking at, nothing could come of it or we could be looking at a multimillion-dollar industry," Mr Ehau says.

"It takes the form of so many products and it's such a versatile plant, and it could be used for so many things," Ruatoria local Hamish White says.

An industrial hemp revolution could change the future of Ruatoria.