Ten children were found living at houses during police raids across the Wellington region that uncovered hidden weapons, buried drugs, a P lab and a heavily fortified base.
Police raided 32 properties in Wellington, the Hutt Valley, Wairarapa and Kapiti, arresting 30 people, disrupting a P lab, and seizing more than $60,000 in cash, a handgun, methamphetamine, cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and GBL.
The children - particularly a 3-year-old found in an Upper Hutt methamphetamine laboratory - were the most alarming discovery for police, Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Leitch said.
"The child shouldn't be in the meth lab; that's one of the real high-risk places."
Nine other children of school age or younger were found in raided properties across the region.
The 3-year-old in the P lab, believed to have been run by a Head Hunters gang associate, might have been exposed to dangerous and volatile chemicals, Leitch said. All the children were referred to Child, Youth and Family.
At several homes, the drug manufacturers and dealers had gone to great lengths to keep their activities hidden, Leitch said.
One home in Maungaraki, Lower Hutt, was heavily fortified, with spy cameras, a heavy steel door and grille.
A 10-litre paint can buried in the back yard of a Masterton property contained 800g of cannabis in 1-ounce bags, with more waiting to be packaged.
Cannabis was also found hidden in a slow cooker in the kitchen of another Masterton property, he said.
At a property in Waikanae, a .22-calibre pistol was stashed in a "purpose-built hidey hole" cut into the furniture.
It is believed the raids have put a considerable dent in the illegal operations of the Head Hunters gang, in particular.
"The thing that comes out clearly, there's the link to the one group," Leitch said.
It is understood the group referred to is the Head Hunters, based in Upper Hutt, with two patched members and several associates arrested during the raids.
Hutt Valley area commander Inspector Mike Hill said the Head Hunters were a major concern because of their violent crimes.
"They are committing offences that are staying under the radar of the public - high-level violence within the criminal networks."
The Head Hunters expanded to Wellington from Auckland in September last year, setting up a now-defunct cage-fighting base in Upper Hutt.
Gavin Johnston, 39, understood to be a patched member, was arrested at a home in Akatarawa Rd, Upper Hutt. He is understood to be one of three Head Hunters denied entry to Thailand last October.
WHAT WAS SEIZED
P laboratory; $60,000 cash; 42 grams of P; 450 ecstasy pills; 1kg of dried cannabis; LSD; GBL; cannabis oil; a .22-calibre pistol; nine replica airguns; ammunition.
Kapiti: 7 homes; 6 arrests
Hutt Valley: 9 homes; 10 arrests
Wellington: 9 homes; 8 arrests
Wairarapa: 7 homes; 6 arrests
- The Dominion Post