More than a dozen stolen cars and two container loads of car parts have been found after a two-day police search of a Christchurch scrap metal yard.
Police visited the yard in Rolleston on Wednesday and found three stolen vehicles.
Detective Senior Sergeant Corrie Parnell said police had now identified a total of 15 stolen cars after further searches were conducted yesterday.
"This is clearly a large-scale operation, and we will be looking closely at links between offenders, metal dealers and markets for these vehicles and parts."
Five vehicles were found largely intact, but engines, panels and other parts from another 10 vehicles were also found. Two container loads of parts destined for export markets were also recovered, he said.
The activity was largely driven by high demand for four-wheel drive parts, both in New Zealand and internationally, Mr Parnell said.
"Police will be taking a hard line where any offending is identified. The bottom line is that car thefts would not be occurring on the scale we're seeing if it wasn't for receivers who are creating a ready market."
Police had spoken to those in charge of the business but they were yet to be formally interviewed. No charges have been laid at this stage, Mr Parnell said.
Investigators had visited several other parts and scrap-metal dealers in the area but no other stolen vehicles were found, he said.
"Our message to dealers is that they must be vigilant about their customers and their record keeping."