Police swoop nets $12m of drugs

Last updated 13:44 21/03/2014

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Police have recovered illegal drugs valued at $12 million from 61 properties across the Waikato in an operation that has lasted several days.

Acting field crime manager Detective Senior Sergeant Nigel Keall, of the Waikato CIB, said 8300 cannabis plants were found, a methamphetamine lab discovered, stolen property recovered and 13 firearms seized.

As a result 34 people were facing drugs and/or firearms charges and six people had been issued with formal warnings.

"With so many cannabis plants recovered in the operation Waikato police believe a significant amount of potential harm to the community has been prevented," Keall said.

"We encourage anyone with any concerns about drug-related activity to contact us."

The police operation included the Aria home of Shane Owen Bond, 33, which allegedly included a methamphetamine lab powered by $30,000 worth of solar panels, he said.

Police said there was also a lined horse float at the property in which a number of cannabis plants were allegedly found.

Police alleged they found several firearms at the address, including a homemade pistol.

A warrant had been issued for the arrest of Bond.

Keall said police drug operations could be quite risky, given the locations the operations were sometimes set up in.

"At a number of the isolated locations we went to our staff encountered gin traps while on an island in the Waikato River, near Rangiriri, the plots were under surveillance by battery-operated game cameras."

About 407 cannabis plants were recovered growing in three plots on the island.

"On Mt Pirongia growers had their cannabis plants protected by cages, but it wasn't just in isolated spots of bush that cannabis was found ... plants were also recovered in maize paddocks growing on several farms without the landowner's knowledge."

Offenders often trespassed on private land, damaged farm crops and gate locks and set traps to protect their plantations. They often used intimidation on users of regional parks and Department of Conservation land, Keall said.

"What we've noticed over the course of the operation, which saw staff deployed as far away as the Coromandel, King Country and North Waikato, is that drug growers and manufacturers are becoming more sophisticated in their activities meaning the police's response is evolving as well.

"As well as utilising teams on the ground our operation involved fixed-wing spotter aircraft, a helicopter spraying dyed herbicide to access hard to get to areas in rugged bush and a boat to access not only coastal areas of interest but river islands as well."

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