Police have intercepted the largest-ever shipment of drugs at New Zealand's border - worth $245 million - in a record-breaking bust following a lengthy covert investigation.
The police, along with Customs, intercepted 613kg of methamphetamine arriving through Auckland Airport last Thursday.
Six people have been arrested, including some with links to the Comancheros gang, police said.
The National Organised Crime Group has been investigating a criminal syndicate's alleged involvement in importing controlled Class A drugs into New Zealand, and investigators part of Operation Weirton made further inquiries over recent days.
Several search warrants were carried out across south Auckland late yesterday.
Six people, aged between 27 and 36, are facing serious drug and money laundering charges and were scheduled to appear at Manukau District Court today.
But staff shortages at the court, due to Covid-19, meant their appearances were rescheduled.
"Had this shipment been distributed across New Zealand it would have caused immense harm to the vulnerable communities these criminal groups were preying upon," said Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.
"Police estimate this seizure would have caused more than half a billion dollars' worth of social harm, according to drug harm index figures."
Organised criminal groups undermine the wellbeing of communities, Customs group manager for intelligence, investigations and enforcement Dana McDonald said.
"This seizure has made a significant impact in preventing further community harm."
Meanwhile, Coster thanked Customs for its assistance.
"This success highlights the strong partnerships in place between police, customs and our international partners in targeting criminal activity at our borders and in the community.
"We appreciate the assistance provided by Customs in this operation, particularly with the exceptional profiling of shipments from high-risk countries which end up resulting in these large interceptions."
Police cannot rule out identifying others involved and further charges being laid as inquiries are ongoing.
Five men have been charged with participating in an organised criminal group and being in possession of methamphetamine on March 1.
One man has been charged with conspiring to import the class A drug between January 1 and March 1.
The men are from locations all across Auckland, including Remuera, Māngere Bridge, Papatoetoe, Rānui and Wiri. They are aged between 27 and 36.
The largest previous shipment of methamphetamine was the 501kg smuggled into New Zealand from a "mothership" off the coast of 90 Mile Beach in Northland in 2016.
In 2019, there was another police investigation where 500kg was smuggled into Whakatāne and a Customs operation where 469kg was stopped at the border.
For many years, the most methamphetamine, also known as P or ice, discovered in one shipment was 96kg hidden in the bottom of green paint tins in Operation Major in 2006.
Now, 100kg or more is almost routine.
Two decades after meth took hold here, wastewater data shows, New Zealand has failed to curb its devastating popularity.
An estimated 1 per cent of the population collectively spend more than $500 million a year on the drug, fuelling a lucrative criminal trade, causing extensive social harm and putting enormous strain on communities.