A Vietnamese student has been charged after police uncovered a hydro house filled with almost 300 cannabis plants at West Wollongong.
Officers raided the Valetta Street home on Wednesday morning, finding 297 cannabis plants inside.
The plants, of varying stages in growth, were discovered in seven rooms and have an estimated street value of about $945,000.
Wollongong police crime manager Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth said the rooms inside the home had been converted into growing areas, complete with heat lamps, automated irrigation systems and carbon filters to mask any smell.
The electricity to the home had also been bypassed.
As part of the sting, police arrested 20-year-old Ngoc Dien Pham about 5.45am.
Pham was charged with cultivating a large commercial quantity of a prohibited plant, the enhanced indoor cultivation of cannabis for a commercial purpose and using electricity without authority.
The accused appeared in Wollongong Bail Court on Wednesday afternoon, aided by a Vietnamese interpreter.
The court heard Pham, who lives at a Canley Heights address, was in Australia on a four-year student visa.
Defence lawyer Justine Hall told the court Pham could surrender his passport as one of a number of conditions to mitigate bail concerns.
Opposing bail, police prosecutor Sergeant James Krause said the facts of the case were “quite strong”.
Registrar Bruiceen Coulthard refused Pham bail. He will reappear in Wollongong Local Court on Monday.
Detective Inspector Ainsworth said the potential street value of Wednesday’s haul – the fifth drug bust across Wollongong in about six weeks – was “significant”.
“I think it shows as well that there’s that many potential [hydro] houses out there in quiet residential streets,” he said.
A Valetta Street resident told the Mercury he was surprised the hydro house was unearthed in what was a typically-quiet cul-de-sac.
“I’ve never actually met them but they lived a very quiet life by the looks of it,” the resident, Wolfgang Wendler, said.
“There seemed to be a few young people who lived there. I’m shocked because I haven't seen ... unusual traffic there, people coming and going.”