A French tourist has been caught in Paihia with 24kg of cocaine - worth up to $10.8 million.

Customs officers found the drug on the French national, 26, who was in the area as a passenger on a cruise ship.

The cocaine seizure is one of the largest in this country's history and the drug had a street value of $6.8m and $10.8m.

The tourist was charged with possession for supply of a class A drug, and faces a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Customs investigations manager Bruce Berry said the seizure was the result of liasing with police and Australian authorities.

The 24kg of seized cocaine. Photo/Tania White
The 24kg of seized cocaine. Photo/Tania White

"This is an example of trans-national crime syndicates attempting to use new routes to import drugs. Customs is aware of this. It doesn't matter if it's a cruise ship, a plane or container, we look for risk everywhere.

"Yesterday's seizure and arrest is a great example of partner agencies working together to disrupt transnational organised crime groups who are attempting to profit from a drug that would cause significant harm in our communities."

Further charges are likely.