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New Zealand's criminal underworld may feature in a Kiwi version of the hit Australian TV series Underbelly.

Production company Screentime has received $20,000 from New Zealand On Air to investigate whether the project is feasible.

"We are in the very early stages of talks with TV3. It's very much in the inception stages," Screentime executive director and head of production Philly de Lacey said.

De Lacey wouldn't say what crime era a New Zealand series would focus on.

The first Australian Underbelly series featured the Melbourne gangland wars between 1995 and 2004.

The second series was based around the lives of New Zealander Terry Clark, known as Mr Asia, and "Aussie Bob" Trimbole, a major marijuana and heroin dealer, during the 1970s and 80s.

It also focused on the nightclub scene and police corruption in the Sydney red light district of Kings Cross.

The first two episodes of the Melbourne series were watched by 1.3 million viewers in Australia.

Canterbury University criminologist Dr Greg Newbold said there were a number of high-profile New Zealand underworld figures who could feature in the series.

He would be happy to assist with the programme.

Newbold was involved in the heroin trade during the 1970s, and served 7 years in prison for selling the drug.

He has written seven books and more than 50 academic articles on crime.

"I know a lot of stuff that people don't know I know. If they are going to talk about some criminals I know, I'm always open and happy to talk," he said.

"The quality of the programme will depend on the quality of the information," he said.

He said the New Zealand programme would have to be different to its Aussie counterpart because of the lack of police corruption in New Zealand.

"There would be nothing there really of any substance. They would have to focus on some criminal stories without accusing them of something they haven't been convicted of, if they are still alive. If they are dead they can say what they like," he said.

He said the show could focus on organised crime from the 1960s onwards and could feature criminals such as drug dealer Wayne Beri, Bassett Rd machine gun murderer Ron Jorgensen, and prison escaper George Wilder.