Choppers help cops root out weed

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2014
Pot
Fairfax NZ
THE CREATURE FROM...: Police winched into rural Taranaki as part of a drug operation last week found plots alive with cannabis.

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Police have seized more than $1 million worth of cannabis plants with the help of the air force.

Detective Inspector Keith Borrell said police conducted their annual drug operation in Taranaki over two days last week.

A Royal New Zealand Air Force Iroquois helicopter was used to spot cannabis plots from the sky.

Staff were then winched into the plots to cut down the plants and arrange for them to be moved by the helicopter.

This year 1191 plants were seized, compared to 1052 last year.

Rain over Christmas meant the crops were in good condition despite the dry weather, Borrell said.

The cannabis was destroyed.

Over the two days nine Air Force personnel and 15 police staff worked on the operation.

As well as the aerial operation, 11 search warrants were conducted around the region. Officials found 834 grams of dried cannabis head, a small amount of methamphetamine, five firearms and a large amount of ammunition.

Two indoor cannabis growing operations were also discovered.

Borrell said 10 arrests were made and the offenders would be in court over the next few weeks facing charges including cultivating cannabis, possessing cannabis for supply, selling cannabis, possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of firearms.

Borrell said the cost of using the helicopter was well justified by the haul.

"You have got to take into account the cost of the social harm drugs cause to the country."

The operation spanned the entire Taranaki region and was not concentrated in one area, but all around the mountain, Borrell said.

"It was a very successful operation. It's good to remove the drug from the streets."

The Taranaki operation was part of a larger district and national operation which was ongoing, he said.

"We'll still be conducting search warrants in Taranaki and the Central District."

The police gathered intelligence before beginning drug busts and Borell said most of their information came from members of the public.

"We would like to thank the public and our rural communities for their help."

Borrell said police were still interested to hear from anyone with information relating to the cultivation or supply of cannabis.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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