The Blaketown pensioner charged with trafficking cocaine into Australia has been told he faces life in prison.
Roy Arbon, a retired organic beekeeper from the Coast Road, is due in court in Perth on April 1 charged with trafficking a marketable amount of cocaine.
Mr Arbon, who walks with a pronounced stoop, is well known around Greymouth, and until his latest overseas trip he was often selling honey outside the Greymouth market.
From a remand prison in Perth, he has contacted Greymouth friend Graeme Macilquham and told him that he faces life, having been charged with trying to smuggle in 8kg of the drug in his bag.
For comparison, a bag of sugar weighs 3kg and a newborn baby about the same.
Mr Macilquham said Mr Arbon did not have a lawyer yet and it apparently took four weeks for a legal aid request to be processed and then to decide whether to accept the case.
If legal aid is refused, Mr Arbon says he will have to defend himself.
He has told friends he had been travelling, including to India and Brazil, to secure a low-cost loan, apparently after he lost his life savings in a text scam.
The cocaine was found in the lining of his bag, and Mr Arbon has told friends he would have "cut it out" if he had known it was there, Mr Macilquham said.
The Western Australian Court can declare people to be a 'drug trafficker' if they are found carrying more than 28g of cocaine.
The sentence is 25 years or life.
Mr Arbon, originally from Whakatane, did a diploma in dairy technology at Massey University and later took up mountaineering. He worked on oil rigs, got into scaffolding, but fell off a building and broke his back, leaving him with a stoop.
He helped in the aftermath of the Erebus and Cave Creek disasters.
He moved to the West Coast in 1981.
A few years ago Mr Arbon sold his Coast Road property, moved to Kumara Junction and then to a pensioner's flat in Blaketown.
In 2014, talking of his love for organic beekeeping, he told the Greymouth Star: "It's not about the money, it's about the environment".
- Greymouth Star