Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Suspect turns up during big dope raid

Police acting on tip-off pounce on major cannabis-growing warehouse in Albany

A man believed to be behind one of New Zealand's most sophisticated cannabis-growing operations was oblivious to a huge police raid at his Auckland warehouse until he drove right into the middle of it.

Police raided the warehouse in Albany just after 7am yesterday and discovered more than 1100 cannabis plants in varying stages of growth, and about 1200 seedlings.

The plants were being cultivated in 30 individual pods, each with its own extraction, heating and light system. The pods were 2.8m by 1.4m and made of plastic framing covered in foil-lined black zip-up bags.

Each numbered pod had a clipboard sitting on top of it with details of when the plants were planted, sprayed and "fed".

One pod contained a number of clothes-airing racks with cannabis hanging on them to dry. Trays had been positioned underneath each rack to catch the finished product, which was then bagged and piled on one side.

The building where the cannabis was found is home to a technology company. Its owners could not be contacted yesterday.

A man in his 50s arrived at the scene just after 10am. Police converged on his vehicle and he was escorted to a police car and taken away to be questioned.

Detective Inspector Greg Cramer said the person or people behind the operation would face serious charges including cultivation of cannabis on a commercial scale and possession of the drug for supply.

It is understood a tip-off led police to the warehouse, and the operation had been running since early this year.

"It's a very sophisticated set up when you look at the lighting, extraction and watering systems," Mr Cramer said.

"In those circumstances in this sort of growing arrangement you could probably put through four crops in a year. It's a very significant find."

Mr Cramer estimated the crop found yesterday would have yielded up to $1 million in sales.

It was too early to say how much the operation would have cost to set up but it "wouldn't be cheap".

Police said they also found a large supply of fertilisers, chemicals and gardening equipment used for growing cannabis, as well as potting mix and a large whiteboard with instructions on what needed to be done to each pod, what needed to be purchased and diagrams of how things should be set up.

Above the main room in the warehouse where the cannabis was growing, police were examining an office, kitchen and another room with several computer hard drives.

They also took items from the man's car, including documents, an iPhone and a pipe that could be used for smoking cannabis, and put them into evidence bags.

Mr Cramer said the operation would have used 24,000 litres of water and up to $7000 worth of electricity each month.

He did not want to speculate on who was behind the operation and whether they were known to police.

Cannabis haul

1100 cannabis plants

1200 seedlings

30 individual growing pods, each with its own extraction, heating and light system.

24,000 litres of water and $5000 to $7000 worth of electricity would have been used each month.

- NZ Herald

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