Waikato Police say a combined operation with their Auckland and Bay of Plenty colleagues that recovered firearms, large sums of cash, chemicals and significant amounts of methamphetamine will significantly impact on the illegal drug trade and related downstream offending in the region.
Detective Senior Sergeant Nigel Keall of the Waikato CIB said three properties were searched by combined teams of staff yesterday morning, one in Oruanui north of Taupo, one in Cambridge and one in Waitomo.
"Operation Sonny was a Police investigation set up to locate and apprehend David John Harries who had been on the run since December 2010 after breaching his parole release conditions. The enquiries into his whereabouts revealed significant methamphetamine related offending by a core group of people.
"Two men and a woman were located at the Oruanui property where a number of firearms, a methamphetamine laboratory, large quantities of chemicals, methamphetamine and cash were recovered.
"One man was apprehended by armed staff as he left an outbuilding on the property carrying two bags. Inside these bags Police found about 952gms of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of over $800,000, and just over $157,000 in cash."
Mr Keall said an Auckland based Police Clandestine Laboratory Team is currently working with local Bay of Plenty officers carrying out a scene examination which is expected to take several days.
"Amongst items identified was 21kgs of Contac NT, a pseudoephedrine based precursor product used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, which has an estimated value of over $900,000.
"Consulting with colleagues nationally it appears yesterday's discovering rates with one other in terms of the largest operations discovered in this country and considering the proven output of this lab it appears yesterday's find is the bigger of the two."
Further large quantities of methamphetamine and cash were seized but are yet to be quantified. The laboratory and chemicals present had the potential to manufacture many more kilograms of methamphetamine in a short space of time.
Armed Police supported the inquiry team as they carried out their search warrant to ensure the protection of not just Police staff but people at the property and members of the public as well.
"In addition to firearms found in a safe a loaded functioning military style semi-automatic rifle was located unsecured in the house and a loaded handgun was found behind the seat of a car highlighting the risks associated from firearms linked to the illegal drugs trade."
As a result of the search two men, aged 43 and 56-years-old appeared in the Taupo District Court yesterday on drugs charges relating to the manufacturing and supply of methamphetamine.
Describing methamphetamine as a problem affecting many communities across the country Mr Keall pointed out those involved in today's activities appeared to be part of a significant, organised criminal group operating from a seemingly innocuous rural property in plain sight of people travelling on SH1.
"In addition to the search of the Oruanui property officers also searched a Cambridge address where quantities of methamphetamine, cash and an unknown liquid were recovered.
"A 50-year-old man appeared in the Hamilton District Court yesterday on three serious methamphetamine charges while a 28-year-old woman arrested at a Waitomo property also appeared on similar charges."
Mr Keall said the use of officers from three different districts highlighted the strong focus Police have on targeting organised criminals earning an income on the back of harm to the community caused by the manufacture and distribution of illicit drugs such as methamphetamine.
"Criminals involved in such activity need to be aware that we have the resources available to apply a whole of policing approach to the prevention of such crime.
"The consequences of drugs are very harmful, particularly from methamphetamine. Its impacts are wide reaching and go far beyond the individual user often resulting in other offending such as burglary, serious violence, vehicle theft and intimidation."
While Police have significantly impacted on the operation of this criminal enterprise Mr Keall said there was a lot members of the public can contribute.
"Some of the signs of an illicit drug operation include a pungent or chemical odour, curtains closed during the day and night, lights on all night, or large numbers of cars moving in and out of a property at odd times.
"If you have any information don't assume Police are already aware of it, contact us and let us know what is happening, alternatively information can be left anonymously with Crimestoppers on 0800 555111."