Just over $4000 worth of drugs has been seized by Customs from ships in the Port of Tauranga since 2009, compared with more than $400 million seized through the Ports of Auckland.

Since 2009, Customs has seized drugs with a street value of $488.9 million through the Ports of Auckland compared to just $4083 through the Port of Tauranga.

The data obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times from Customs under the Official Information Act did not include 46kg of cocaine seized at the Port of Tauranga in November last year, as it was a joint operation with police.

Methamphetamine accounted for $276.6m worth of drugs seized at Ports of Auckland compared to $2260 worth of ecstasy at Port of Tauranga that was found earlier this year.


Customs communications and events director Simon Lambourne said most drug seizures in Auckland were at the port, at the airport, or through international mail.

He declined to answer how many searches were carried out a week at the Port of Tauranga but said Customs ran visible and targeted operations focusing on either a specific vessel, screening containers, ship searches and overall port security.

''Most containers arriving in Tauranga are sent directly to Auckland which limits the clearance activity. While there are no immediate plans to increase staff in Tauranga we are able to quickly deploy resources from other ports on a short-term basis, as and when needed.''

International crime syndicates will try every method possible to smuggle drugs or other illicit goods into the country, Lambourne said.

''Tauranga is a potential smuggling route but this is no different to any other port on our coastline.''

Port of Tauranga chief financial officer Steve Gray said the seizure of 46kg of cocaine in November was the result of a five-month operation involving port staff, police and Customs using surveillance cameras.

Customs is responsible for clearing imported shipments and their team had a mobile X-ray unit at the Tauranga Container Terminal, he said.

An annual requirement under the Maritime Security Act was to test the port facility security plan, which happened in September.


''The exercise was assessed by Maritime NZ and involved NZ Customs, NZ Police and NZ Defence's bomb squad. This exercise gave our security team practice in detecting fugitives, potential explosives and contraband, with specific training on bomb and drugs detection.''

Acting Minister of Customs Iain Lees-Galloway said the government was strongly committed to stopping the flow of illicit drugs across our borders and reducing the harm caused by illegal substances in our communities.

A police spokeswoman said the importation of drugs was taken extremely seriously.

Last year a number of drug supply chains were interrupted by police and Customs making a large number of seizures.

From January until November 2017, police and Customs jointly seized more than 403kg of methamphetamine across 1879 seizures, both at the border and domestically through investigations.

For the same period, both agencies made 132 cocaine seizures, including an estimated 46kg of cocaine in Tauranga, following a five-month Customs and police investigation.

Tommy Wilson, of Te Tuinga Whanau Social Services Trust, believed there were up to 1000 drug addicts in Tauranga, a figure he reached based on the people "walking through my front door''.

He did not believe there was a huge amount of illicit drugs going through the Port of Tauranga, instead saying the biggest drug problem the city faced was synthetic cannabis.

''We must remember the number one drug on the radar now is synthetics, which is homemade. They are making synthetics out of everything and anything they can find in our own backyards.''

He said marijuana should be decriminalised.

''Some people were smoking marijuana and not doing a lot of harm to anyone and now they are on synthetics... we have shifted the problem back into the underworld where it's being made and distributed without any regulations and that is where the resources should go.

''You could lock up every gang member in this country but until you take away the need or the consumption it's not going to change anything.''