Police believe the $3 million haul of cocaine found washed up on Bethells Beach in West Auckland was likely destined for Australia.

Waitemata Police Detective Inspector Colin Parmenter said packages of cocaine washed up in recent days were likely to have been among hundreds of kilograms of the drug destined for Australia last year.

Police were called to the beach on Wednesday evening, where they found 20 packages of cocaine, with a rough street value of more than $3 million.

"In August 2018, a rigid inflatable boat was seen by Australian Border Force and Defence patrols off the northern New South Wales coast heading towards the mainland, and authorities were sent to intercept it," Parmenter said.

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"The two occupants of the inflatable were seen offloading the cocaine into the sea, and they were arrested."

READ MORE: The rise of cocaine: Drug syndicates 'determined' to create a market in NZ

Of the cocaine that was offloaded, the majority had been recovered, he said.

"Some was located along parts of the eastern coastline of Australia, from northern Queensland down to New South Wales.

"The product found on Bethells Beach appears to have been part of this same shipment and has drifted here over the last year, as the markings and packaging of the drugs is consistent with that seized in Australia."

The Police Eagle helicopter concluded a wider search of the area yesterday but found nothing of interest. Police are planning regular patrols to check for any further washed-up items.

"There remains a small possibility of further packages turning up, and we would reiterate the importance of contacting police if you discover any suspicious or concerning items."

The Herald understands the packages, contained in netting, were found by locals out walking.

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Each package was about the size of a VHS tape and wrapped carefully in plastic.

A retired detective who spoke to the Herald yesterday also believed the find was likely part of a much bigger illicit import.

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

It was not the first time a significant amount of drugs had been found on a Kiwi beach.

In 2016, 500kg - half a billion dollars worth - of methamphetamine was found on 90 Mile Beach.