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Registered: 07/06/10
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New Zealand: It's war on bush dope growers
    #526980 - 02/13/11 04:44 PM (7 years, 4 months ago)

Lin Ferguson

Wanganui Chroncile

Monday 14 Feb 2011
Police are hoping to strike a major blow to Wanganui's gangs this year with their annual cannabis sting operation.

With the harvesting season due within the next two months, there will again be targeted raids into lucrative cannabis growing operations up the Whanganui River, and inland through Raetihi. Ohakune and National Park.

Whanganui rural Constable Alan Spooner said yesterday that, though the growing season had got off to a slow start due to lack of rain before Christmas, conditions were perfect now.

Most of the growing was done under contract to gangs and gang associates, he said.

Growing cannabis was an exceptionally good earner.

Most people growing and tending large plantations and plots of cannabis in isolated bush areas were very skilful gardeners and many of them were camping at the plots at this time of the year.

In 2009, police pulled in more than 2024 cannabis plants in the hugely successful Operation Kristy.

The plots had been found in Forestry plantations and in dense bush up the Whanganui River.

More than 11,000 plants were pulled overall in the 2009 cannabis recovery throughout the central policing district and a further 1500 in the Ruapehu area.

Operation Kristy had put a significant dent in the cannabis trade, with 257 people charged and in many cases jailed, Mr Spooner said.

Central District police spokesman Constable Dave Kirk said that in Wanganui the cannabis hauled in had come from plots run by three local gangs - Hells Angels, the Mongrel Mob and Black Power.
Mr Spooner said that if they ever gave up growing cannabis they would make fantastic market gardeners ... "not that it would ever happen, there's not the same money".

Cannabis was still in huge demand, and the problem with cannabis growing and supply was that it went hand-in-hand with a lot of crime, he said.

"Here in town, many people don't even try to hide plants.

"You would be amazed at the number of plants that are growing in odd corners on people's sections."

Serious growers had no qualms when it came to planting out or even throwing in a few plants around their granny's back yard.

"They'll plant wherever they can. Just as long as it grows, they don't care."

Plants were often spotted in secluded spots around Virginia Lake and other public places, he said.

Serious growers with plots in isolated country areas were very protective of their plants, he said.

It was mostly pig hunters who came across hidden plots in hill country.

"If they do, they don't hang around. They leave very quickly for fear of reprisals from growers.

"They don't want to be around if the grower or growers suddenly arrive."

Waimarino Constable Bruce Francis, based in Ohakune, said cannabis growing was a big, big industry and had been for years.

He said it always amazed him, though, when he saw the very basic way the growers and people running tinny houses lived.

"You'd never know they had any money.

"You'd think some of them were on the breadline, yet they're making big money."

Dope growers in rural areas were a farmer's worst nightmare.

"They steal stock regularly and have no thought for the farmers at all. It's as though they think they're entitled."

People in the community were usually pretty good at calling police when they noticed odd behaviour, he said.

"Like seeing the same car driving along the same country road day after day or noticing a car stopping each day and letting someone out in the same place."

Tip-offs to police about plots came in from a number of people, including farmers and hunters.

With the plantations getting close to harvesting, some growers were surrounding their plots with chicken netting to protect them from possums.

Many even had their own irrigation systems, Mr Francis said.

Every year a national cannabis seizure is carried out by police.

A large team of police, including the armed offenders squad, is involved in the search for plots well hidden in dense bush and hill country.

Even though the annual police cannabis sting operation was well known and well publicised, some growers still thought they could operate under the radar, Mr Francis said.

An RNZAF Iroquois helicopter is always used in the search to target plots from the air.





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