Cannabis alert for maize growers

Police are urging Taranaki farmers to be wary of illegal cannabis growing in their maize fields. Taranaki police are taking part in a national campaign this week, alerting farmers to the possibility of criminal groups cultivating cannabis on their land. Detective Drew Bennett, of Stratford, said they would be getting out into the rural communities to try to gain information about where cannabis cultivation may be taking place. During cannabis removal work this year and last year, Taranaki had the highest amount of cannabis plants removed throughout the Central Districts region. Last year, police discovered 1905 plants, while 1286 plants were discovered this year during aerial and search warrant operations.

Federated Farmers of New Zealand president Bruce Wills said maize crops were the most commonly used sites, but pine forests and other dense bush areas were also used. “We know from experience growers will focus their attention on back-country areas and planting among crops like maize because it can mask cannabis from all but the air.” Mr Wills said that sort of activity was far too common, especially at this time of year. “The problem is the discovery of this kind of thing often goes unreported, so we really do want to push the importance of letting the police know. What we don’t want is farmers trying to take the law into their own hands.”

Groups involved in this activity regularly monitored and tended their crops, sometimes using GPS systems to mark their plots. They also kept a close eye on farmer activity to ensure they could remove their plants before the maize was cut. “Crime groups are now extremely sophisticated and they’re doing it on a huge scale,” Mr Wills said. Despite this, Central Districts spokesman Senior Constable Dave Kirk said the plots wouldn’t necessarily be large. “Gone are the days of 300 or 400 plants all together. Now they tend to be in smaller groups of 10 to 15 in the hope they go unnoticed, with other small groups inevitably close by.” Police request that farmers be aware of any strange vehicles or people frequenting their area and to alert police if anything is noticed.

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