A Northern Rivers man is facing a District Court hearing after pleading guilty to a serious drug charge.
A Northern Rivers man is facing a District Court hearing after pleading guilty to a serious drug charge. Rob Wright

'He had a bunker buried in his backyard'

BRIGHT solar lights, electrical cords everywhere and fans whirring: this was the sight police were met with when they raided Paul Ian Harris' property in 2010.

There was a similar scene when they returned on April 5 last year to raid the second shipping container where Harris had been caught growing cannabis, a court has heard.

This time, the bunker was located on his neighbours' property.

The 50-year-old from Fernvale, south of Murwillumbah, this week pleaded guilty to cultivating a commercial quantity of cannabis by enhanced indoor means over the setup where police found 68 plants growing.

But the exact nature and extent of Harris' involvement is being discussed in an ongoing hearing before Lismore District Court.

The court yesterday heard evidence from one of the neighbours, who initially told police she had no knowledge of the bunker or of what it was being used for.

She had since conceded knowledge of the shipping container and the cannabis.

The court heard she and her husband met Harris shortly after buying the Cadaga Rd property in 2009 with her husband.

They didn't move into their new house on the property until after its completion in 2011 and, at some point, Harris bragged to them about the 2010 drug raid on his property, the court heard.

"He told us that he'd been growing cannabis and he had 280 plants," she said.

"He (said he) had a bunker buried in his backyard."

The court was yesterday shown part of the crime scene video from that 2010 police raid.

After Harris spent some time in prison, the couple kept their distance for a while, but later on, when he was visiting and she explained plans to build a swimming pool, Mr Harris informed her a shipping container buried near their home would interfere with that.

She told the court she and her husband returned from a trip to South Africa in 2017 to find pavers had been laid, a power pole erected next to it and a trench dug between that pole and their meter box.

"Mr Harris was there and he said I've done this for you," she said.

"He said we could kick it off again, we could activate it again."

She said Harris had claimed to have previously used the bunker on their property for growing cannabis.

When Harris suggested they grow a limited number of plants, she said they consented to this.

She said the profits were to be split 60-40.

The court heard of a time Harris asked to store a number of "baby plants" in the neighbours' machinery shed - while others were growing in the bunker - just before they departed on another overseas trip.

The woman agreed, on the proviso they were gone when they returned.

But the couple came home to find solar lights and an extraction system that sounded "like a 747 jet motor" installed in the shed, where the plants remained.

In cross-examination, defence barrister Ben Cochrane asked the woman is her desire to treat chronic pain was "a motivation to grow cannabis".

"No, it was not," she replied.

The court heard Mr Cochrane will ultimately argue his client played an "advisory role" in the offending.

The hearing continues.