Police Minister Mark Mitchell backs aerial cannabis operations, but hasn't read evidence-based reports

Police Minister Mark Mitchell is backing Police's costly aerial operations to target cannabis, but admits he hasn't read a key report that says there's little evidence it's disrupting supply.

Aerial operations to find and destroy remote cannabis operations were halted in 2021, but brought back a year later.

The Police Commissioner last month defended the programme.

"I believe our current investment is fit for purpose to achieve the outcomes it achieves which is really the targeting of organised crime activity, not so much the targeting of cannabis use," Andrew Coster said.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick said there are other ways to do that.

"Why they are spending a better part of a million dollars in sending up helicopters and playing tin soldiers in the sky when those resources could be better deployed else well?" she said.

But Mitchell said: "If Police continue to think they are effective and that's what they need to do to keep the public safe, I fully support that."

The number of cannabis plants seized by police this year isn't yet available as the operation is ongoing.

In previous years, tens of thousands of plants have been removed with a street value in the tens of millions.

Despite that, Ministry of Health data from the New Zealand Health Survey shows cannabis use has increased over the past decade.

"It is evident this is an ineffective operation," said Swarbrick.

She's questioned if the minister is across his brief.

In an answer to a Written Parliamentary Question, the Police Minister admitted he hadn't read reports from the Evidence-Based Policing Unit.

Its 2019 report found there was "little empirical evidence available to suggest that crop eradication has a positive impact on the supply and availability of cannabis".

"It is a bit embarrassing isn't it," said Swarbrick. "We have got a Government that is promising it is going to base its decisions on data and evidence yet they haven't read the data and evidence."

Mitchell said: "I have had lots of other reports that I have had to read. I am aware of their operation but no I don't think I needed to have read that report."

Aware and fully backing an operation others question.