Police believe their cannabis eradication programme this year will wipe out
about 40 per cent of the national crop.

About 500 cannabis plants growing among maize and on isolated parts of
Matakana Island in Tauranga Harbour were seized yesterday.

The national programme co-ordinator, Detective Senior Sergeant Don Lee,
said the growing season was consistent with previous years, although the
wet summer meant plants were maturing a little later than normal.

Northland, Eastern Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel remained the biggest
problem areas, although the Waikato, Gisborne and other parts of the Bay of
Plenty had yielded big crops of high-quality cannabis.

In previous years police have estimated they wiped out about 40 per cent of
the crop by aerial spraying (quick and cost-effective) and by uprooting plants.

The programme still has a month to go this year but they believe the same
figure will apply. "There is quite a blackmarket for drugs and that is
something that is never going to change," said Mr Lee.

Growers were tending to plant smaller plots and more of them, often in bush
clearings where cannabis was easy to grow.

He said hydroponic setups were expensive and meant "fairly expensive
consequences" if the growers were caught.

Police often recovered firearms and stolen property in connection with drugs.

At Te Puke last week, officers seized a shotgun from a grower camped by his
cannabis crop. During a search of a Papamoa house, 50 cannabis plants
growing under lights, stolen computers and a mountain bike were found.

On a much greater scale, 35,000 plants in the Bay of Plenty and 19,500 in
Northland (6100 more than last year) were destroyed by police this month.

At Rotorua, Taupo and Tokoroa 13,000 plants were found, 2000 more than last
season.

More than 100 people were arrested in the Waikato last week after a
nine-month undercover drug investigation. Drugs worth more than $100,000
and firearms were found.


Newshawk: Joe Adams
Pubdate: Thu, 28 Mar 2002
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2002 New Zealand Herald
Contact: letters@herald.co.nz
Website: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/300
Author: Rosaleen MacBrayne