More than 1180kg of methamphetamine was nabbed heading into New Zealand last year - enough to cause nearly $1.5 billion worth of harm potentially.

And that's just the meth - Customs says it stopped more than three tonnes of illegal drugs coming into New Zealand last year.

That includes 329kg of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine precursors, which could have been converted into 246kg of methamphetamine, 739kg and 6469 pills of MDMA or Ecstasy and 60kg of cocaine.

Offshore, a further 437kg of illegal drugs bound for Aotearoa was seized, based on information from Customs' international border partners.


Minister of Customs Jenny Salesa said the record number of seizures was thanks to the Government's financial boost towards disrupting transnational organised crime.

"We have given Customs the cash injection they needed to boost their capabilities, plus disrupt more criminal networks offshore to stop illegal drugs before they even leave the export country. These overseas seizures are increasing year on year."

"In Budget 2018 we committed an extra $58.1 million over four years to disrupt drug-smuggling networks, including $3.9m for capital like detection technology and surveillance equipment. That investment is paying off because we're stopping more drugs at our border."

Preliminary statistics show Customs made 2613 separate drug seizures of various class A, B and C drugs at the New Zealand border in 2019.

This stacked up to 2577kg, 505 litres, and more than 342,000 items such as pills or tablets.

Offshore drug seizures were made across 21 countries. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Offshore drug seizures were made across 21 countries. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Salesa said there were 49 new operational staff working in Customs since 2016/17, as well as 97 "ship-to-shore" officials, working to halt the import of drugs.

Offshore drug seizures, from 21 different countries, included close to 246kg of methamphetamine, 120kg of MDMA, and 32kg of cocaine.

"Thanks to additional funding, Customs has also been working smarter through offshore collaboration with law enforcement agencies in Australia, the Pacific, the US and further abroad to stop the drug traffickers' products and ingredients before they can leave overseas ports and airports," Salesa said.


Customs' focus on disrupting the supply of illegal drugs from reaching local communities was part of the Government's health-based approach, she said.

"Our coalition Government is putting more resources into addiction, detoxification and residential care services for New Zealanders who are struggling with drug and alcohol issues.

"For this to be effective, it's important for our law enforcement agencies like Customs to reduce the supply of drugs like meth as much as possible, and take a hard line against the organised criminal groups that push these products."

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Salesa said criminal syndicates seeking to distribute illegal drugs continued to evolve in the volume and methods used when attempting to smuggle these drugs in.

"While this is a global issue, this is partly due to the criminals who have returned from Australia as deportees, and have brought their know-how and international criminal networks."


"Some of those people arriving have gang connections in Australia and supplier contacts across Asia – adding a level of sophistication and co-ordination that is new in the drugs fight."