American spies have monitored Tauranga drug traffickers as they gather intelligence on the worldwide trade in narcotics.
The revelation came from a US Central Intelligence Agency database that was published online this week after spy chiefs buckled to pressure from a group lobbying for greater access to government information.
The database contains a trove of information about New Zealand, including profiles of prime ministers David Lange and Robert Muldoon, and suggests that our anti-nuclear stance had little effect on US military operations.
But it also delves into activities at a provincial and city level in New Zealand, including information gathered from news agencies, periodicals and books.
The Bay of Plenty Times found nine references to Tauranga in a two-year period around 1980, mostly from worldwide reports on narcotics and dangerous drugs. No references were found after 1981, and it is unclear whether this is because the CIA stopped gathering such information or because it was inaccessible to the computer search.
Tauranga is mentioned mostly in regards to the heroin trade, with several mentions of people being arrested for allegedly importing the drug. There is also a reference to Tauranga National Party members rejecting a call by Auckland colleagues for the death penalty to be imposed on drug dealers.
The Bay of Plenty Times attempted to track down all of the men named in the Tauranga-related documents to seek their reactions but they could not be contacted or did not respond to requests for an interview.
New Zealand is mentioned nearly 4000 times among the 13 million pages of documents.
The CIA's Tauranga files
September 20, 1979: Information on a 26-year-old man appearing in Tauranga Magistrate's Court charged with possessing heroin for supply.
July 10, 1980: A Tauranga man's alleged involved with a conspiracy to import heroin into New Zealand.
December 8, 1980: A Tauranga man, 33, and a Mount Maunganui man, 32 have allegedly conspired to import heroin to New Zealand.
February 5, 1981: Tauranga is mentioned as a "main point of entry" for heroin to the Waikato.
June 19, 1981: A suggestion by Otahuhu National Party members that drug dealers be executed is rejected by their Tauranga counterparts.
June 30, 1981: A Hong Kong cargo clerk working at Port of Tauranga is charged with importing heroin into New Zealand.
August 20, 1981: Two men appear in Tauranga District Court on charges related to importing heroin worth $210,000 from Hong Kong (this is the same case as June 30).
Source: US Central Intelligence Agency