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News (Media Awareness Project) - New Zealand: Northland Is Cannabis Capital
Title:New Zealand: Northland Is Cannabis Capital
Published On:2011-07-23
Source:Northern Advocate (New Zealand)
Fetched On:2011-07-24 06:03:06

Northland has retained the dubious national title of "cannabis
capital" with more than a third of the country's haul of illegal
plants being ripped out or sprayed in the region.

During the month-long Northland phase of the operation over summer,
34,917 cannabis plants were seized or destroyed. That is well over a
third of the national total of 97,000 plants.

Head of the Northland police organised crime unit, Detective Sergeant
Mike Blowers, said the blitz, codenamed Operation Linda, had made a
dent in the region's multimillion dollar drug trade.

Growing cannabis was still the major illegal drug trade in the
region, with a strong link to gangs.

Northland police recovered $98,000 of stolen property, found $15,000
cash, discovered 23 firearms, uncovered 19 indoor cannabis-growing
operations and four methamphetamine laboratories. They arrested 172
people during Operation Linda.

Of those nabbed in the bust, 94 faced charges of cultivating
cannabis, while another 16 were charged with possession of cannabis
for supply and 26 were gang members or associates.

Mr Blowers said there was a strong link between gangs and drugs, and
they were involved in all levels, growing and producing to selling
and supplying.

"Cannabis is a lot more accessible than drugs like methamphetamine,
which is expensive.

Cannabis leads on to harder drugs, it's just the start," he said.

"I don't think in the 20 years I've been policing that I have
interviewed anyone using meth that hadn't started on cannabis."

Northland had the ideal climate for growing cannabis and the rural
isolation also helped growers avoid detection.

Mr Blowers said the title of "cannabis capital" was not unexpected
and more plants could have been destroyed, except rain had kept the
spotter plane and helicopter grounded for a week during the
operation. Northland police also busted a car-theft ring in which 4WD
vehicles were being stolen to order.

Detective Senior Sergeant Scott McGill, from the police national
headquarters, said that over summer police nationally seized or
destroyed 97,000 plants and 82 firearms, arrested 726 people, and
recovered $230,000 in stolen property. They also found seven
clandestine methamphetamine labs. In the same period the summer
before, police seized 110,000 plants and 105 firearms, arrested 912
people and recovered stolen property worth $290,000.

Mr McGill said police were no longer finding as many booby traps,
probably because growers were spreading their illegal planting over
smaller plantations.

"In the past they grew in larger plots. They are growing in smaller
plots now and in various locations, trying to scatter their planting
so we may pick up one or two but may not pick up the whole lot." In
the past, police said booby traps included loaded firearms and razor barriers.

"We still find offenders with loaded firearms in the houses, but not
very often would we find them guarding a plot with a loaded firearm."

Information on drugs or other crime can be left on the tip-off line:
0800 CRIME STOPPERS, with calls treated as confidential.
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