Nearly 50kg more methamphetamine has been found by police hidden in sand dunes in Northland, adding to what was already the largest seizure in New Zealand history.
Police found 448kg of the drug in the back of a campervan on Sunday.
Yesterday, 46kg was found buried in bags on 90 Mile Beach. The drugs have a street value close to $500 million, police say.
Co-ordinates from a GPS device found inside a Toyota Prado led officers to the cache, close to where a boat involved in the original bust was left abandoned. Police also seized a second boat, found at Ahipara.
Detective Inspector Kevin Burke said the public told police some men had tried to launch a large boat off Ahipara beach a few days earlier, claiming they were spreading ashes.
But the size of the swell meant they were unable to launch and they returned to Auckland.
Locals had sent them packing, telling the men they needed permission to spread ashes. They returned on Sunday and the boat ended up coming ashore near Huketere, some way from where its trailer had been left after launching from Ahipara.
Mr Burke said police were still establishing the source of the methamphetamine and its destination within New Zealand.
Locals told the Northern Advocate there was regular suspicious activity on the west coast involving boats, although police say this was the first time they had had enough information to result in a seizure and arrests.
"This has been the result of the community identifying suspicious behaviour and bringing it to the attention of police, combined with some excellent community policing," Mr Burke said.
Ahipara resident Steve Courtenay said it was a huge stretch of coastline that was mostly unpoliced and an easy target for criminals to exploit.
"But to use the west coast you have to know what you are doing ... the surf conditions are pretty dangerous."
Mr Courtenay had been walking his dog on Ahipara golf course when he noticed a police officer talking with two men in a four-wheel drive vehicle in the carpark about 3pm on Sunday.
He then saw the pair in the back of another police vehicle and the four-wheel drive being towed away. Local surfer Mike Venney praised the work of police and said the seizure meant the drugs would not make it into circulation and harm Northland communities.
Three men charged in connection with the haul have appeared in Kaitaia District Court.
The trio, aged 19, 26 and 31, are charged with possession of methamphetamine for supply and importing methamphetamine.
Judge Sharp remanded the men in custody until July 6 and granted interim name suppression.
- Northern Advocate, NZ Herald