Katie Holland is the Rotorua Daily Post deputy editor

Heart attack on day of drug arrest

A Rotorua pensioner had a heart attack the day she was arrested for running a commercial cannabis operation in her garage, a court has heard.

Sheryl Margaret Kingi, 65, pleaded guilty in Rotorua District Court yesterday to cultivating cannabis and possession of cannabis for supply, after police discovered a sophisticated growing set-up and more than $108,000 worth of cannabis on her property. She had no previous convictions.

Kingi's lawyer, Des O'Connor, said his client was now undergoing medical treatment after suffering a heart attack on the day she was arrested.

According to the police summary of facts, police searched Kingi's Mallard Dr, Selwyn Heights, home on June 11.

They found "an extensive commercial scale cannabis operation" in the garage and adjoining unit that consisted of the cultivation, drying and packaging of the drug.

The garage had been divided into three main areas, which police referred to as a "primary grow-room", a "secondary grow-room" and an "operations area".

The primary growing room was a 7m x 4m enclosed structure within the garage, constructed of aluminium and plastic polythene sheets. Within it were eight 1.5m x 1.5m wooden platforms, seven of which had cannabis plants growing in them.

There were lighting units hanging from the ceiling, controlled by electrical timers, and each plant was nutrient-fed by a hosing system that was controlled by an irrigation unit.

Six fans and a large carbon filter has been installed to help disguise the smell. The summary stated these were "factors all designed to create the perfect growing environment for the cannabis plants".

In the operations area, which housed the irrigation system and timers, there were also scales, resealable bags and a whiteboard with notes on cultivation. Police also found 10 28g bags of cannabis (known as "ounce bags"). In the adjoining unit seedlings were found in a shower stall, along with 32 more ounce bags.

In total, police found 119 cannabis plants, 30 seedlings and 2.37kg of cannabis head material at the property.

Using a "conservative" estimate of $350 per ounce, police valued the cannabis at $108,150.

Power records suggested the operation had been in effect since at least May 2009. During the previous 12 months the property had used an average 82 units' power per day. The national average for a similar house was 24 units.

"This would further suggest that cannabis is growing at the address all year round ... at least three growing cycles per year," the summary stated.

Police prosecutor Sergeant Roger Schreuder submitted Kingi should be remanded in custody given the sophisticated nature of her offending. However Judge John Macdonald remanded her on bail for sentencing on September 27.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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