Shift of major trial likely

One of Taranaki's largest criminal trials due to go to court next year may be moved out of the region because of re-roofing at New Plymouth courthouse.

So far 13 Taranaki people are facing trial for indictable drug-related offences after Operation Puff, an extensive undercover police surveillance operation targeting Kiwi associates of the Australian-based Rebels gang.

Justice Paul Heath warned lawyers during a pre-trial discussion in the High Court at New Plymouth of a possible shift to another suitably large courtroom because of the re-roofing.

The new roof is due to go on in the early months of next year and the noise from the work would make it too disruptive for trials.

Justice Heath said he would look into alternative venues at another centre such as Wellington, Palmerston North or Hamilton.

The Crown was given an extension of time to file indictments.

Only one of the 13 accused, Ryan Blackburn, 25, a labourer, was in the dock for the hearing.

Like Blackburn, most of the accused have been charged with conspiring to deal methamphetamine, a Class A controlled drug.

It is yet to be determined if all the accused will be heard at the one trial, and whether before a judge or jury. Another pre-trial hearing is set down for June 29.

Taranaki Daily News