More than 10,000 cannabis plants with a street value of $28 million were seized in the Bay of Plenty in the last year - and police are urging members of the community to dob people in as the growing season kicks off.
Figures show the number of plants found has jumped with 10,149 plants valued at $28m seized in the police's 2018/19 National Cannabis and Crime Operation compared to 5904 cannabis plants with a street value of $16.5m in 2017/2018.
The 2018/19 cannabis seizures in the Bay of Plenty were the second-highest haul in New Zealand.
Detective Senior Sergeant John Wilson hoped the community would play their part as the days got warmer.
''Around this time there can be a spike in activity in rural and isolated areas.''
Vehicles parked in unusual and secluded locations at odd times and signs people in remote spots were all signs of activity to watch out for, Wilson said.
''People coming and going from areas like forestry plantations can also pose health and safety risks for those working legitimately.
''Cannabis cultivation can lead to other crimes in the area such as burglary and we urge the Bay of Plenty community to let us know what is going on.''
A police spokeswoman said the seized cannabis is either sprayed with a chemical to kill the plant where it is found or removed for later destruction and usually incinerated.
Federated Farmers Rotorua and Taupō provincial president and retired policeman Colin Guyton had never found cannabis plants on his property but had heard of it happening many times.
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"A lot of farms might not be in the right position because they are on the main road but if you are in an isolated area, and with a bit of water, then you are in a prime spot for cannabis growers to plant out their seedlings.
"Often motorbikes will go missing which is a good sign something else is going on because they need them to get to the crops to water them."
Although not all cannabis growers were thieves, Guyton said even petrol disappearing should set off alarm bells for farmers.
While the 2020 referendum on legalising cannabis looms, currently penalties associated with the cultivation of cannabis can result in a seven-year jail term or an immediate two-year jail term and/or $2000 fine — depending on the amount.
However, recent amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act mean police can now easily refer people using or possessing cannabis to health services rather than pursuing criminal charges.
One avenue is the Salvation Army day and outpatient programme in Tauranga which sees people from around the region who use cannabis harmfully.
Salvation Army national addictions director Lynette Hutson said the prominent issues were alcohol and methamphetamine.
"These two are so prominent that cannabis use has taken a lower profile right now. That is not to say it isn't an issue and certainly one we need to watch as we move towards the referendum."
Poverty plays a significant role in why people cultivate it and why they use it Hutson said.
"It provides temporary relief from the unrelenting pressure of coping with inadequate resources.
"Using cannabis gives people a feeling of being relaxed and mellow and their reactions slow down. However long term and sustained use can impact mental health conditions and is associated with the onset of schizophrenia."
New Zealanders will vote on legislation to legalise recreational cannabis at the 2020 election.
Cabinet has agreed there will be a simple Yes/No question on the basis of a draft piece of legislation.