A covert cannabis growing operation in two shipping containers, with one buried underground in rural Whangarei, had the potential to rake in more than $1 million, a jury has heard.

Tony James Ware, 47, has denied cultivating cannabis and stealing electricity worth more than $17,000 at his trial in the Whangarei District Court. Ware is representing himself at the trial.

Opening the Crown case, Moana Jarman-Taylor said police searched Ware's rural property in Whareora on August 11, 2011. They found a closed shipping container which was padlocked.

A bolt cutter was used by Detective Mike Metcalfe to open the container that had 187 cannabis plants, with lights suspended from the roof and a fan was operating.


A second container was discovered underground, with access through a manhole hidden by a pile of rubbish. Ms Jarman-Taylor said that container was split in three compartments and contained 142 cannabis plants.

Inside the bathroom of the house, she said a further 81 cannabis plants were found in a plastic container and another 29 plants were found in buckets outside.

Other items used in cultivating cannabis were found around the house, she said. In total, the were 448 female and one male cannabis plants.

Female cannabis plants were the most sought-after as they were the most potent and valuable, Ms Jarman-Taylor told the jury.

She said if the 448 female plants were allowed to grow to their full size and maturity, they could have fetched between $250,000 and $500,000 per crop.

Underground cultivation could grow up to three crops per year. Ware turned up later and police recovered two bags containing dried cannabis head in his car.

Ms Jarman-Taylor said Detective Andrew Glendinning returned to the property with a Northpower inspector at a later date and it was discover that Ware had bypassed the electricity meter to connect power to the shipping containers to grow the cannabis.

A check with power supplier Meridian Energy revealed the property received about $17,409 worth of un-metered electricity between 2010 and 2011.

In his brief opening address to the jury, Ware accused police of lying and urged the jurors to pay serious attention to the evidence before the court.

The case continues.