Drugs and stock theft plague farmers

By Mike Barrington -
Federated Farmers security spokeswoman Katie Milne.
Federated Farmers security spokeswoman Katie Milne.

Northland farmers are being warned to watch out for a "perfect storm" of rural crime as animal theft and drug growing operations are ramping up.

This time of year sees cannabis growers taking advantage of farmland to cultivate illicit crops, according to Federated Farmers.

Meanwhile, six earmarked Perendale-cross lambs worth an estimated $420 were taken from a property in Mataraua Rd, near Kaikohe, and 80 romney lambs worth an estimated $8000 were stolen from a farm in Koutu Loop Rd at Whirinaki last month.

Asked about the Whirinaki rustling, Kaikohe police acting Senior Sergeant Pat Davis said yesterday that detectives were following a line of inquiry.

Federated Farmers Northland provincial president Roger Ludbrook said most smaller stock thefts seemed to be for eating, as people struggled to cope with soaring supermarket prices for meat.

"In Northland,if you look at our social demography, we are vulnerable because we are a relatively low socio-economic area."

Ewes, worth about $80 each, were the most commonly stolen animals, because they were vulnerable and easy to carry.

"A guy just up the road from me had six ewes with lambs, and he found the ewes' guts in his yard and the lambs were still running around. He pretty much lost his whole flock."

Mr Ludbrook had also found cannabis crops growing on his property on a number of occasions.

"It certainly does happen. [But] because we're spraying so much gorse at the moment, anyone who's growing cannabis on my land is going to be bitter in a week's time."

Federated Farmers rural security spokeswoman Katie Milne said cannabis growers were at work at this time of the year, stealing equipment and fuel for use growing drugs on rural land.

She urged farmers to be vigilant and also report any thefts and suspicious activity on their land.

Pouto farmer Ian Russell has had plenty to report to the Dargaville police in the past.

He said he had lost more than 700 cattle and 2700 sheep to thieves over the past 20 years.

He installed cameras to catch the culprits but when the cameras were discovered by men skulking around his yards they burned down his woolshed, valued at $600,000. Additional reporting APN

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