A surge in cocaine smuggled into New Zealand is placing a microscope on fears deportees with Australian gang connections are aiding illegal drug trafficking.

Yesterday, about $3 million of cocaine was found washed up on Bethells Beach in West Auckland.

The Herald understands the packages, contained in netting, were discovered by locals out walking. Each package was about the size of a VHS tape and wrapped tightly in plastic.

Strategika Group founder Jose Sousa-Santos told Mike Hosking on his Newstalk ZB Breakfast Show that unfortunately some people who were deported from Australia to New Zealand never reintegrated into the community.


Instead, they fell back on contacts with outlaw motorcycle gangs and criminal syndicates in Australia which created "new lines of trafficking".

Sousa-Santos said Australia was a larger market "with bigger players".

"When you bring in direct connections to the Australian criminal entities that brings a whole new facet to the criminal landscape.

"We are talking about multi-millionaire dollar business here."

Sousa-Santos said New Zealand police were starting to understand the problem better.

"There are still several initiatives that we could do to strength New Zealand borders and also to support our Pacific partners."

But some of the recent initiatives between police and Customs in the Pacific have shown New Zealand police "have come a long way".

"The Pacific is a large space of water, so it will always be a large challenge for the region."

The cocaine washed up at a West Auckland beach. Graphic / NZ Herald
The cocaine washed up at a West Auckland beach. Graphic / NZ Herald

Customs group manager of intelligence, investigations and enforcement Jamie Bamford told Newstalk ZB they've seized four-times more cocaine in 2018 than the year before.

A few years prior to that Customs was seizing just grams of cocaine, he said.

"We are definitely seeing an increase in cocaine coming in to New Zealand."

Bamford said drug syndicates were "determined" to try to create a market for cocaine in New Zealand.

There was a prominent cocaine market in Australia, which means some gets shipped to, or through New Zealand, he said.

New Zealand had a small population and a long coastline, he said.

"That takes quite a bit of surveillance and monitoring. We work quite closely with our defence partners, with police, with the community to try and help guard the coast."

Coastwatch volunteers reported strange sightings, he said.

"We have a number of tools available to try and combat people running drugs to our coast."

More than a tonne of drugs was seized by Customs in the first six months of this year, including a significant increase in cocaine, methamphetamine and MDMA, also known as Ecstasy.

Preliminary statistics for the six months from the start of January to June 30 show Customs seized 8kg of cocaine, 434kg of methamphetamine and 407kg of MDMA.

Bamford said Customs was concerned about any increases in drug trafficking.