Jailed man stole power for cannabis operation

A Rotorua man stole almost $18,000 worth of electricity to power a cannabis-growing operation in his Hannahs Bay home, a court has heard.

John Kenneth David, 53, was sentenced in the Rotorua District Court yesterday to three years and 10 months' jail after previously pleading guilty to cultivation of cannabis, unlawful possession of a firearm and theft of $17,685 of power.

The sentence also covered separate convictions for assaulting a police officer, refusing a blood alcohol test and dangerous driving.

Judge Chris McGuire said police searched David's Charles Rd home on July 1 last year and found a "large, well-established indoor cannabis cultivating operation on a commercial scale".

Cannabis was being grown in a sleepout and two bedrooms, which had been converted with ventilation systems, fans, digital climate and humidity gages, growing platforms and 400 watt high pressure growing lamps.

In the sleepout police found 10 "mother plants" averaging 120cm in height and 286 "clone plants" between 5cm and 12cm tall.

In the bedrooms there were 187 plants, averaging 30cm in one room and 60cm in the other. A further 2.06kg of cannabis leaf was found stashed throughout the house. A shotgun was also found under a bed.

Judge McGuire said at least six growing cycles per year were feasible, which would have meant a possible annual turnover of $162,000.

Police noticed the electricity meter's disc was not turning over and it was found the meter had been tampered with, stopping it from recording the house's power consumption. It was estimated about $17,685 of power had been stolen from Genesis Energy.

"You had gone to an awful lot of trouble to get this growing operation right and you had nailed it," Judge McGuire told David.

The judge said David had a raft of previous convictions, including cultivation and possession of cannabis for supply in 1991.

He also had four drink driving convictions and one for careless driving causing death, he said.

"[Your's is] almost a track record of a career criminal."

Judge McGuire said David was "quite plainly a skilled carpenter".

"You modified this house into a considerable growing operation. You don't have to be involved in criminal behaviour. You have talents aplenty to make a success of your life without going there."

David wiped tears away as the judge referred to a letter from David's sister.

"I detect in the tone of her letter a frustration that someone who's 53 years old is doing what you're doing and obviously associating with criminals on a regular basis doing what they are doing."

David was also convicted and discharged on charges of driving while forbidden, breaching bail and failing to stop after an accident.

- By Katie Holland of the Rotorua Daily Post