A Rotorua man found in possession of more than $137 million worth of methamphetamine has failed in his bid to appeal his sentence.

Lionel James Ruka McDonald had 137.5kg of the drug in packages in his vehicle and in a storage unit, when Rotorua police executed search warrants in Fairy Springs on August 14 and 15 last year.

The meth was worth about $1m per kg in the region at the time of the bust, the biggest amount ever seized by police in Rotorua.

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McDonald pleaded guilty to possessing methamphetamine for supply and in February, he was sentenced by Judge Greg Hollister-Jones to 13 years and nine months in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of seven years.


In May, McDonald and his defence lawyer Andrew Schulze tried to appeal his minimum non-parole period, according to a High Court decision from Justice Anne Hinton, released on June 30.

Schulze argued that Judge Hollister-Jones "failed to adequately identify why a minimum period of imprisonment was needed".

Lionel McDonald at his sentencing in Rotorua. Photo / File
Lionel McDonald at his sentencing in Rotorua. Photo / File

Hollister-Jones referred to McDonald having "excellent previous character" and being "highly remorseful" and Schulze argued that meant the non-parole period wasn't necessary.

Despite this, Justice Hinton said the offending itself had "extraordinarily grave character. It is necessary to demonstrate to others tempted to become involved in the potentially lucrative business of high-level commercial supply of methamphetamine that a proportionately severe prison sentence will result."

She dismissed the appeal.

The summary of facts said McDonald had 36.5kg of meth, made up of 62 small packages, in a car on August 14.

The packages were hidden in sports bags and a chilly bin.

Five phones and a notebook with columns and weights recorded were found in his house.


In his garage, there was a box of empty bags labelled "Chinese green tea".

The next day police searched a storage unit McDonald used and found 101 packages of methamphetamine in "Chinese green tea packaging".

They were kept in four metal lockers.

The keys for the lockers and storage unit were in the vehicle searched the night before.

At McDonald's sentencing in February, Judge Hollister-Jones had said the bust was "among the top level of seizures in New Zealand."

He said McDonald had not provided police with information about where the methamphetamine had come from, because he feared there would be repercussions for his wife.


Schulze argued McDonald was a custodian, had a $200 a day gambling addiction and was approached to join the supply chain.

"It was a naive, stupid decision to make ... and completely out of character."

At the time of the bust last year, acting Rotorua police area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said it was "biggest we've had in the Bay" and a "huge amount for our small town".