Police believe they have made a significant dent in the Hawke's Bay drug scene, with the discovery yesterday of over $1 million worth of cannabis.
Searches of four properties in the region by the Eastern District Organised Crime Unit resulted in 1053 plants being found, along with approximately 10 kilos of cannabis plant. The four properties included houses in Napier and Hastings and rural blocks in Middle Rd, Havelock North and in Tuai, north of Napier.
The Middle Rd rural property proved particularly lucrative, with police finding 851 plants there as well as $6000 in cash, a small of amount of methamphetamine and other drug paraphernalia. Another $1000 cash was found at the other properties.
With an estimated value of $1000 per cannabis plant, the conservative total for yesterday's haul was around $1 million worth of the drug.
Head of the Organised Crime Unit, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Foster, said the four properties were linked and those involved were part of an organised group who have been growing and dealing cannabis in the region. The group had Mongrel Mob connections. Yesterday's search warrants were the culmination of a four-month police operation that focussed on the group and its activities.
Five males aged from 37 to 48 are facing charges of cultivating cannabis and possessing cannabis for supply. They are due to appear in the Hastings District Court next week. Further charges are likely.
Mr Foster said yesterday's operation would have a big impact on the local cannabis trade. Plants found by police ranged from "mother" plants and seedlings through to mature plants.
"This was a significant operation and we believe it will make a huge dent in the local cannabis trade. This group was involved in some major drug dealing in the region and in collaboration with local gangs. Unfortunately, police are seeing more and more of this type of activity and we are working hard to nip it in the bud," Mr Foster said.
The public continued to be useful sources of information about drugs and police were urging residents in both rural and urban areas to report any suspicious activity.
"It's extremely helpful for us to know about any strange or unusual behaviour that may be linked to drugs or other criminal activity. All it takes is for someone to ring us and tell us about something they have seen that is out of the ordinary - it could be something small or insignificant but it could be very important for police."
Anyone with information about cannabis or other criminal activity should ring their local police station. Alternatively, information can be left anonymously on Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.