For some, it's the stuff of nightmares.

Auckland man John Champion had a split second to decide he needed to catch the creepy crawly racing across the floor of his home.

Champion, of Howick, had just arrived from a short holiday in Sydney, with wife Sally, when he started to unpack their luggage.

"I had unpacked a case and there was really not much left in the case and I closed the lid. I was doing something else and I turned around - and next thing I see is this bloody thing scurrying across the floor.

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"I put a glass over it and did whatever and sort of thought: 'Hey, this is crazy'.''

He admits had it been wife Sally who spotted the centipede, there probably would have been something thrown at it instead.

"I knew that I needed to catch it because the last thing I wanted it to do was to go and hide somewhere."

Champion contacted the Ministry for Primary Industries and he was asked to send the creature in for testing.

Creepy crawly: Auckland man John Champion believes the centipede found its way here from Australia. Photo / Supplied
Creepy crawly: Auckland man John Champion believes the centipede found its way here from Australia. Photo / Supplied

The couple searched the internet to try and figure out what species the centipede was and came across what they think it is - Ethmostigmus rubripes, known as Australia's giant centipede, which can grow to up 16cm.

"There were two horns on the top and the website said they were poisonous.

"They don't bite, they inject their venom through the two antennae and they would give you something like a wasp sting.

"They won't kill humans - they kill insects and everything like that - but they will give you a thing about as nasty as a wasp sting and it'll last up to three days."

Champion said the biggest concern for him, however, was that the centipede had managed to get through Customs, despite their luggage being checked via X-ray three times.

An item they purchased while on holiday meant their bags had to be declared subsequent to checks.

"What concerns me is the fact our luggage went backwards and forwards two or three times through the X-ray machine and they never found it.

"Whether it's a cockroach or whatever. That's not the worry. I thought that the X-ray machines at the airport would pick up something about six inches long that's clinging on the outside of your suitcase."

MPI's team manager for detection technology, Brett Hickman, said New Zealand had strict biosecurity procedures at airports to prevent exotic pests and diseases entering the country.

The X-ray machines and their operation also followed international best practice, he said.

"We know these systems are highly effective, but no biosecurity system in the world can ever guarantee every pest is intercepted.

"It's important to note that MPI's activity at the border is not the only work being done to prevent biosecurity incursions.

"MPI uses a multi-layered approach to our border protection system which stops pests and diseases before they arrive, manages them if they arrive at the border and deals with pests if they enter the country.''

Champion said it was suggested to him by MPI that it may be a local species. However, the couple believes it is not native to New Zealand.

"Sure, I've only been living in this country for 50 years. I have never, never ever seen anything like that in our garden. We've had farms, we've lived all over New Zealand and that doesn't live here."

• If a member of the public finds a suspected foreign bug, they should contain the insect or infested goods in a plastic bag or container and immediately contact the Ministry for Primary Industries exotic pest and disease hotline: 0800 809 966