A senior Tauranga gang member's "spectacularly unsuccessful" attempt at setting up a South Island drug ring has earned him nine years' jail.

Jay Tarahina Kiwi appeared in Tauranga District Court today facing five charges relating to possessing methamphetamine for supply, threatens to kill, and conspiring to deal.

The court heard the Greazy Dogs vice-president attempted to set up a drug distribution network but the first "sales trip" failed dismally when police busted Kiwi and an associate as they arrived, with drugs in tow, at Dunedin Airport.

On September 9, 2016, Kiwi and the associate checked into the airport with one piece of luggage each.

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When police intercepted the pair, one ran off on foot throwing a bag containing empty snaplock lags and a glass pipe onto the ground. Another bag, holding 78g of methamphetamine, was thrown onto the roof of the airport. Kiwi was later found to have $933 and a further $5000 in $50 notes in his luggage.

A search of Kiwi's Tauranga home revealed about 500g of P inside 17 snaplock bags found in the boot of a Suzuki Swift.

A total of 569g of methamphetamine was seized by police as part of "Operation Black Ice".

Today, Judge Thomas Ingram described Kiwi as the attempted operation's "kingpin" but his attempt at setting up the drugs ring was "spectacularly unsuccessful".

Kiwi also faced sentences of up to seven and a half years for other possession charges in relation to the raid. These would be served concurrently. Kiwi pleaded not guilty and elected to go on trial but after the third day, opted to change his pleas to guilty.

Judge Ingram acknowledged Kiwi's actions as having prevented the ordeal his family and friends would need to go through under cross-examination. He explained the sentence included discount because of Kiwi's subsequent remorse and the impact jailtime would have on his young family.

"You know the effect on your family will be considerable. You have children who will be deprived of their father's presence for many of their years because of what you have done," Judge Ingram said.

"I consider that you have belatedly realised a proper sense of responsibility."

However, Judge Ingram said Kiwi's case involved serious offending and justice still needed to be served.

"The courts have been caught in a rising tide of methamphetamine dealing. I'm satisfied, Mr Kiwi, you came to the realisation of what you had gotten yourself into."

The public gallery of the courtroom was packed to standing room only by Kiwi's family and friends, who watched him on audio-visual link as he accepted his sentencing.

Kiwi's counsel Peter Kaye said his client was a "devoted family man" and it would be important for him to keep ties with them.