Police recovered 4.5kg of dried cannabis head and more than 90 mature cannabis plants, that have a street value of about $45,000, along with small amounts of methamphetamine during drug raids in Central Otago and South Westland last month, a spokesman said.
Southern District criminal investigations manager Detective Inspector Shona Low said it was one of the most significant operations in the area for some time.
Dubbed Operation Vintage, it targeted commercial-scale cannabis growing and taking methamphetamine into Cromwell, she said.
Three men appeared in the Queenstown District Court on April 19 facing charges relating to commercial cannabis production and firearms.
A 44-year-old Tarras man faces eight charges — five of offering to sell cannabis plant, all dated between January 15 and February 9, in Cromwell and Haast; one of selling cannabis plant, between January 14 and 15, in Haast; and two of supplying class A-controlled methamphetamine, between January 19 and 20, and February 7 and 8, both in Cromwell — those charges carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
He was remanded in custody.
Also remanded in custody was Brian Edward Lyttle, shearer, also 44, of Cromwell, who also faces eight charges, all dated between December 1, 2022, and April 18.
He was charged with failing to assist police exercising a search power in Queenstown, and unlawful possession of a0.22 rifle, in Haast, both on April 18; unlawful possession of arifle, between March 24 and 25, in Tarras; two charges of offering to supply methamphetamine, between December 1 and 18 in Haast and Cromwell; offering to sell cannabis between December 1 and 17 in Alexandra, and between February 20 and 23 in Cromwell; and supplying methamphetamine, between December 24 and 26, 2022, in Alexandra.
Alan MacDonald, 52, of Cromwell, was remanded on bail and faces 12 charges — supplying methamphetamine between December 1, 2022 and March 1, in Haast, and between November 23, 2022 and February 28, in Cromwell; offering to sell cannabis between February 1 and 22, on February 9 and February 20, all in Cromwell; offering to supply methamphetamine on November 9, in Cromwell, between January 23 and 28, in Cromwell, and between January 31 and February 1, in Alexandra; offering to supply cannabis between February 20 and 23, in Cromwell; possession of cannabis plant, unlawful possession a .17 calibre HMR rifle and a .223 Remington rifle, all on April 18, in Cromwell.
All three were due to appear in the Alexandra District Court on May 17.
Inquiries were ongoing and more arrests and charges were expected, a police spokesman said.