The victim of a home invasion is now facing drugs charges after police going to his aid found cannabis plants growing by his back door.
Jasper van Gaalen and his wife Kelly appeared in the Kaikohe District Court on Tuesday jointly charged with cultivating cannabis for supply. They entered not guilty pleas and elected a trial by jury, which has been set for July 6.
The Northern Advocate understands the cannabis was found after neighbours called 111 and police went to the home, where Jasper van Gaalen had been attacked in a brutal home invasion. Three Kaikohe men have since been jailed for their part in the attack.
The van Gaalens are well known in Kaikohe. Kelly van Gaalen chairs the Kaikohe Community Arts Council, is a member of the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board and is employed by the Kaikohe Business Association as a promotions co-ordinator.
Last December she was one of 15 Northlanders to receive a Local Heroes medal as part of the lead-up to this week's New Zealander of the Year awards.
Jasper van Gaalen has owned a number of businesses in Kaikohe and currently operates a stock transport firm.
Judge Duncan Harvey said he had read the file and struggled to see what the couple's defence would be.
Lawyer Doug Blaikie said the couple did not deny having "a couple of plants at the back door" and that the plants "did pretty well", but the cannabis was for personal use only.
"I don't have a problem with it. And when the jury hears the evidence, they won't have a problem with it either," he said.