Police seize more than 34,000 cannabis plants during summer aerial blitz

Police seize more than 34,000 cannabis plants during summer aerial blitz
Photo credit: File

Police seized more than 34,000 cannabis plants and 79kg of dried cannabis with a combined street value of $95 million during this summer's aerial blitz. 

The nationally coordinated operation, confirmed in January, was conducted across several regions of New Zealand as part of what the police described as a "wider cannabis investigation and prevention operation". 

Director of the National Organised Crime Group Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said in an update on Friday that the operation was just one element of the police's ongoing work to reduce the impact of drugs and organised crime in communities. 

"The aim of the operation was squarely on commercial-scale cannabis growing and the organised crime groups behind them," Det Sup Williams said. 

"This was not about personal cannabis use or low-level offending. There were 123 searches executed which resulted in 80 firearms being seized, showing the very concerning link between illicit firearms and drug dealing."

He said it aligned with the nationally coordinated Operation Tauwhiro launched in February. As of March 1, it had resulted in 1531 firearms seized, along with 53.74 kg of methamphetamine and 1255 arrests. The operation was extended until June. 

Det Sup Williams said during the operation, 81 offenders were spoken to, mostly about cultivation of cannabis, possession for supply of cannabis, and firearms offences, while many warnings were issued for cultivation of small-scale plots.

There were 24 indoor commercial cannabis grows discovered and dismantled during the operation and four kilograms of amphetamine and 19 grams of methamphetamine were seized.

"Police will continue to focus on the distributors of more harmful drugs, such as methamphetamine and synthetics," Det Sup Williams said. "But it is important we continue to put pressure on those who profit from running any commercial illicit drug operations."

"The primary focus of this operation was on cannabis eradication of large-scale growing operations from the air, in areas of New Zealand where we know they are likely to be, and at the same time ensuring we are deploying our resources where we can make the biggest impact."

He said some investigations into those involved in the cultivation of the seized cannabis are ongoing, and further arrests are expected in the coming weeks.