Police and Customs have found more than 190 kilograms of cocaine located in a container of bananas - the biggest bust of the drug in New Zealand history.

The cocaine had an estimated harm value of more than $235 million dollars and would have had a street value of $28-36 million.

A Sydney man has been arrested and is facing charges relating to trying to facilitate the importation of part of the consignment into Australia.

Five duffel bags of the drug were found in a container that arrived in Auckland.


Police said a joint Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission investigation into an Australian-based organised crime group identified a potential shipment of illicit drugs that left Balboa, Panama, on August 4 this year.

On August 20 a container listed as a shipment of bananas arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, on a vessel from Balboa.

New Zealand Customs and police staff inspected the container and found five duffel bags on top of the banana boxes - which contained 190 blocks of cocaine each weighing around a kilogram that had been wrapped in packaging tape.

The joint investigation concluded in the last 24 hours with the arrest of the 41-year-old in Sydney.

Detective Inspector Paul Newman of the National Organised Crime Group spoke to media at the Customs Air Cargo Inspection Facility just after 1.30pm.

The Herald was allowed to film the record haul of illicit drugs.

Newman said police were dedicated to stopping drugs coming into the country as they had a devastating impact.

This particular haul was bound for Australia.


"This drug in the community causes a tremendous amount of social harm," he said.

"The operation has shown our dedication, both police and Customs, into disrupting organised criminals who are bringing these drugs into our country and causing this devastating effect on our community.

"This is just the start... we will continue."

He said the sharing of intelligence among agencies was vital.

"This is a global industry and Australasia is seen as a very lucrative market," he explained.

"It makes our job vital trying to prevent the community harm that these drugs cause."

The investigation into the cocaine - where it came from and who else may be behind it - was ongoing.

Newman refused to be drawn on the specifics.

Customs investigations manager Bruce Berry commended his staff for their work.

"It was no small task," he said.

"It's incredibly important as part of our off shore disruption strategy that we take an internationally focused approach.

"I applaud our officer who worked through this."

Newman earlier said the seizure was extremely significant for both countries.

"This operation has once again shown our dedication to disrupting organised crime and reducing the devastating harm that drugs cause in our community," he said.

"Both countries are recognised as lucrative markets for the illicit drug trade, which is why we work closely together and share intelligence.

"The cooperation of both law enforcement and intelligence groups during this investigation has been central to its success in targeting transnational

Berry said the seizure and arrests highlight the strong partnership between Australian and New Zealand law enforcement agencies, and their shared focus on disrupting drug smuggling and protecting each other's borders.

"This joint trans-Tasman approach is an important part of Customs' strategy to keep harm offshore, and shows how New Zealand is playing its part internationally through the use of our intelligence and targeting to successfully identify risk."

Police Minister Stuart Nash said targeting transnational organised crime is a priority for the government.

"Drugs like cocaine cause harm and fuel organised crime networks," said Nash.

"I would like to congratulate Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs staff for their great work in preventing these drugs reaching their destination.

"This operation highlights the key role New Zealand plays internationally in disrupting transnational criminal networks.

"It also showcases the fantastic work Customs and police staff are doing every day to protect and keep our communities safe."

Minister of Customs Kris Faafoi said he was pleased to see the focus on consignments transhipping through New Zealand had been effective.

"This is a good example of what we can achieve when police, border and overseas agencies work together," he said.

Previously the largest cocaine seizure was recorded in Tauranga last year.

Four men were arrested after $20 million in cocaine was seized.

The arrests came after a five-month long inquiry by Customs and police uncovered 46kg of the drug.