A Rotorua man has pleaded guilty to possessing more than 60kg of methamphetamine but has denied selling it.

Lionel James Ruka McDonald, 42, appeared in the Rotorua District Court today via audio visual link where his name suppression lapsed.

He appeared before Judge Greg Hollister-Jones and a gallery full of family members and supporters.

McDonald was charged with possession of methamphetamine after a bust in Fairy Springs at 10pm on August 14, which found about $36 million worth of the drug.


He also pleaded not guilty to a second charge relating to selling methamphetamine.

McDonald will defend the charge at trial but a date has not yet been confirmed.

He won't be sentenced on the possession charge until the second charge has been resolved.

His next appearance is for a case review hearing in Rotorua on November 1.

At the time of the bust, 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".

He said it was a result of New Zealand becoming a destination of choice for people involved in drugs.

Taikato said many found ways of "funding their habit" through crime, so getting it out of the community was a win all-round.

Police were grateful for the community and their help in finding and shutting down drug operations, he said.


The bust was significantly larger than the $420,000 worth of meth seized from properties in Rotorua and Auckland in December, which resulted in four people being arrested.

The biggest meth bust in New Zealand was in 2016 when police found 501kg of the drug in Totara North and on Ninety Mile Beach.

That haul had an estimated street value of almost half a billion dollars.