A world "awash with meth" has seen the Customs Service take a high-tech new approach in the "war on drugs".

Customs Minister Nicky Wagner today unveiled 14 state-of-the-art substance identification devices which will be deployed at ports and airports around the country.

"There's a huge amount of meth right around the world and New Zealand and Australia are targets for that because we are prepared to pay more for our drugs," said Wagner.

"Anything that makes us quicker and more efficient at identifying illegal substances has got to be good."


The $60,000-a-piece devices use a high-energy laser beam to analyse the molecular fingerprint of a suspect substance.

That fingerprint is then instantly matched to a database of more than 12,000 substances to determine its legality.

"The fact we can test a substance instantly makes a huge difference. A traveller might bring their shampoo across the border. It looks like shampoo and it's in a shampoo bottle. Now we can test whether it's got dissolved meth inside it."

The new machines will have a total cost of $900,000 - but taxpayers needn't be concerned.

The entire bill will be funded through the proceeds of crime.