Queenstown man caught with $20K of cocaine

A Queenstown plasterer caught with more than $20,000 of cocaine in his flat has avoided prison.

When police searched the home of Lochie Short on November 22, they found a total of 51.33g of cocaine in various drawers in the 24-year-old’s bedroom, as well as digital scales and unused "point bags" for packaging the drug.

Next to a jar containing $160 cash was a handwritten note saying: "Some cash for coke. Be safe, love you."

He told officers the drugs belonged to him, he was addicted and needed help.

At Short’s sentencing in the Queenstown District Court yesterday on a charge of possessing cocaine for supply, counsel Megan Waller said he had undergone a "mind shift" since his arrest, withdrawing from his previous friendship group and focusing on his business, relationship and fitness.

He had been having addiction counselling since the beginning of the year.

She sought a sentence of community detention on the grounds that home detention would jeopardise his "thriving" plastering business.

A significant amount of the drugs had been for his personal use, and there was no indication of financial gain, Ms Waller said.

Judge Walker said that claim was making a "fine distinction", as his friends had made deposits in his bank account that he used for groceries and fuel.

Under New Zealand criminal law, a person found with more than 0.5g of cocaine is presumed to be dealing the drug.

The amount found in the defendant’s flat, which he estimated was worth $22,000 on the street, was "many, many times that".

Noting the defendant’s five previous convictions, he took as a starting point for sentencing the Crown’s position of 30 months’ prison.

After applying discounts for Short’s early guilty plea, addiction and the steps he had taken towards rehabilitation, he came to a final sentence of eight months’ home detention at a Frankton property.