Bush cannabis crop.
Bush cannabis crop.

Guilty plea for big cannabis haul

HOTEL manager and budding wedding photographer Kristen Gardner pleaded guilty in the Lismore Local Court this week to the commercial supply of 120kg of cannabis.

Gardner, of South Gundurimba, pleaded guilty after the State Crime Command Drug Squad used GPS co-ordinates to track him down on Anzac Day last year working at his hidden bush crop at Lionsville, west of Baryulgil.

Defence lawyer Paul Smart said his client – a former manager of the Winsome Hotel in Lismore – was pleading guilty to agreed Crown facts and his plea also took into account a charge of cultivating 900 cannabis plants on April 25, 2009.

Gardner appeared in court by way of video-link from jail. He will be sentenced in June in the Lismore District Court.

As part of Strike Force Kalba – a combined Richmond Local Area Command and State Crime Command operation – Gardner was put under surveillance after Queensland police discovered a huge cannabis operation on a property in rural Queensland.

Gardner and other members of his family, including his father, were identified as chief suspects in the multi-million dollar cultivation of more than 150,000 cannabis plants, resulting in the seizure of 3.5 tonnes of dried cannabis.

Queensland police have issued an arrest warrant for Gardner on that matter.

In the Lionsville cannabis haul, police first raided Gardner’s rural home outside of Lismore and seized a computer, video camera and a digital camera.

From Gardner’s personal computer police obtained GPS co-ordinates that led them straight to his bushland crop, which was located 5kms off White Beech Road.

They raided the site in the early morning hours of Anzac Day last year.

Crown facts described his de facto, Delilah Williams, as making diary entries stating that Gardner was out bush ‘cropping’ and also referring to him as a ‘dope grower’.

The drug officers found Gardner’s green Kawasaki 250cc motorbike in the bush before coming across a cleared area of ground with a tent and drying shed.

The crop site had been harvested, with six cannabis plants left standing. Police counted hundreds of cannabis plant stalks left in the ground.

They also found a large quantity of dried cannabis weighing in excess of 100kgs, with cannabis leaf and stem sealed inside plastic bags or in sealed coffee bags wrapped in industrial-strength plastic.

A total of 57 bags were found containing cannabis, and in the drying shed a large quantity of cannabis was found on a plastic sheet.

Images of the crop site were also found on digital camera compact flash cards owned by Gardner.

State Drug Crime Command officer, Detective Luke Ellem, said that Gardner had used a sophisticated method of cultivation that included a sprinkler system fed from a nearby creek.

The cannabis drying shed had also utilised a commercial humidifier, he said.

When Gardner was arrested close to the site he had a hand-held GPS.

He has since acknowledged it was his intention to sell the cannabis wholesale.

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