Rawiri Heyder in Rotorua District Court. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rawiri Heyder in Rotorua District Court. Photo / Stephen Parker

A professional motorsport driver caught with up to $32,000 worth of cannabis in an elaborate indoor growing room has avoided going to jail.

Rawiri Kaleb Heyder, 30, appeared in the Rotorua District Court yesterday before Judge Greg Hollister-Jones for sentencing after earlier pleading guilty to a charge of cultivating cannabis.

Heyder, who runs his own business installing fire sprinkler systems, was described in court as a professional drifter of good character.

Rawiri Heyder in February last year before the D1NZ national drifting series. Photo / File
Rawiri Heyder in February last year before the D1NZ national drifting series. Photo / File

Judge Greg Hollister-Jones sentenced Heyder to six months' community detention to be served on Saturdays, 200 hours' community work and 12 months' extensive supervision.

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Judge Hollister-Jones said he removed the option of sending Heyder to jail because it was unlikely he would offend again. He also didn't sentence him to home detention to allow him to still operate his business during the week.

"I am concerned you being unable to earn will result in a relapse given you have ability to earn a quick buck out of cannabis," the judge said.

A police summary of facts, given to the Rotorua Daily Post, said police searched Heyder's house on July 27 this year. Heyder was at work at the time.

Police found an indoor cannabis growing operation set up off the garage of the Fairy Springs Rd house.

Positioned behind the house at the rear of the property was a large garage/workshop and Heyder had built an additional room attached to that which was 3m long by 3m wide, the summary said.

The room was accessed from the garage by a standard single door which was locked.

The room was being used exclusively for cultivating cannabis and had been fitted out at considerable expense with equipment, the summary said.

Inside the room were two grow tents which were about 1.45m long by 2.9m wide by 2m tall. Each tent had two 600 watt high pressure sodium lighting systems and a ducted ventilation system connected to a fan and filter to mask the pungent smell of cannabis, the summary said.

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The total value of the equipment is about $2500.

The summary said the police found 31 healthy and lush cannabis plants midway through their growing cycle and beginning to flower and produce cannabis head. The plants were an average height of about 70cm.

The quality of the cannabis plants being produced required a good level of knowledge and expertise in the area of indoor growing and cloning techniques, the summary said.

Inside the garage police found a set of digital scales and a packet of ounce-sized plastic sandwich bags.

The summary said on average the 31 plants would conservatively yield three ounces of dried cannabis head material once harvested, giving a total of 93 ounces of cannabis head.

Indoor cannabis head material is desirable on the drug market and sells for between $300 and $350 an ounce, giving an estimated value in total of between $27,900 and $32,550.

His lawyer, Casey Haumaha, asked the judge to consider intensive supervision and community work.

She said Heyder was a cannabis user and had become curious about growing it. He taught himself the technique by watching YouTube videos which gave the appearance his operation was professional.

She said he had self-referred for drug counselling and had held a family meeting to admit his offending and apologise.

Haumaha described her client as a "professional driver" and the conviction alone would impact his sport and ability to gain sponsorship.

Judge Hollister-Jones declined Haumaha's request, saying cannabis still caused harm in the community and there had to be a clear consequence.

However, he said he had designed a "package" for him which allowed him to still work during the week.

He noted letters he had been given showing Heyder was a person of good character, including one from the national drifting managing director.

"He has observed you are embarrassed and ashamed you find yourself in this position."

He said any breach of the sentence would see the deal "fall over".