Members and prospects of the recently formed New Zealand branch of the Rebels motorcycle gang have more than 200 criminal convictions between them and have spent nearly 170 years in jail.

Police intelligence has identified 17 patched members of Australia's largest gang here in New Zealand, with nearly 100 convictions for serious drug and violence offences between them.

Prison sentences for those patched members total 77 years, a figure topped by the 90 years of jail time for a further 14 identified Rebel prospects or associates.

Detective Superintendent Brett Kane, of the Organised and Financial Crime Agency, released the information yesterday after a major police operation arrested 30 people accused of running a methamphetamine ring across the North Island.

Vehicles were seized during the armed raids in Manawatu, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland, as well as $120,000 cash, drugs, guns and gang patches. Four Rebels were arrested in Operation Stamp as the police target the expansion of the major Australian criminal group before it gets a foothold here.

Mr Kane said police had been working with Australian law enforcement agencies since late last year after learning of the Rebels' plans to expand in New Zealand.

Mr Kane said the Rebels' expansion in New Zealand stemmed from a number of expat Kiwis joining the Australian gang and rising to senior leadership positions.

The Rebels still have family links to New Zealand - and can fly back and forth on their passports - and were already taking over local gang the Tribesmen in a rebranding process known as "patching over".

The Tribesmen have been weakened by successful police operations targeting the drug dealing of the gang and feeder gang the Killer Beez.

Many of the Tribesmen are also heavy users of P, which Police Association president Greg O'Connor said had damaged the organisation and contributed to their loss of influence and power in the underworld.

He referred to the gang as "The Friedsmen" and said it made sense for them to reach out to a stronger gang such as the Rebels.

The Weekend Herald has also learned that some of the Nomads, who have been in turmoil since the death of their founder Dennis "Mossie" Hines in 2009, are also "patching over" to the Rebels.

The Nomads are based in Horowhenua.

The Lost Breed gang in Nelson has also been mentioned as possibly aligning with the Rebels.

"This is all about business and to expand business," said Mr O'Connor. "The Rebels are like the McDonald's of the criminal world. There is strength in numbers and economies of scale. But with a criminal bent."

Mr Kane said New Zealand would need strong ties with Australian law enforcement agencies to keep the Rebels in check, and a former head of the Auckland drug squad was to be embedded with the Australian Federal Police in Canberra.

Rebel prospects- Local gangs who could "patch over" to the Australians:

Tribesmen: Weakened by the jailing of key members and too much P use (nicknamed "Friedsmen").

Nomads: Lower North Island gang in turmoil since the death of their leader Dennis "Mossie" Hines.

Lost Breed: Nelson gang whose rivals are backed by the Hell's Angels.