The annual cannabis growing season is set to kick off in Hawke's Bay with police urging members of the public to keep an eye out for the plant outdoors as well as indoors.
As Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Foster of the Eastern Organised Crime Unit explained, while growers still sought isolated rural areas to set up their plots, many had also preferred to take the indoor, in-town approach.
"The increasing popularity of indoor hydroponic operations has meant many growers are now resorting to growing crops in residential houses and buildings."
That trend was graphically illustrated last October when 863 cannabis plants and seedlings, with an estimated street sales value of $2.5 million, were uncovered inside a garage on a Dannevirke property.
Another 301 plants were found at a different property.
Two months earlier, police serving a warrant at a house in Greenmeadows, Napier, came across a tent set up in one of the rooms. It had a heating and lighting system installed and about 100 cannabis plants and seedlings were growing inside it.
Mr Foster said members of the public were vital eyes and ears for the police.
It was a tip-off which led to police making the big Dannevirke bust.
"Cannabis crops are traditionally being planted or tended at this time of year and there are often signs of activity that cause suspicion," Mr Foster said.
Outdoors, the areas preferred by growers were likely to be rural farmland or bush in often isolated and hard to access areas.
While the East Cape was the most popular growing area in the Eastern Police district, plots were uncovered every year across the Hawke's Bay and Gisborne regions.
"We need help from the public to point us in the direction of these drug cultivations and to bring offenders before the courts."
Mr Foster said it was incumbent on everyone to report any suspicious activity that could be linked to drug cultivation.
"Farmers and outdoor enthusiasts often stumble across something they believe to be suspicious."
He said in many cases farmers were oblivious to their land being used for cannabis growing.