Even more methamphetamine found in Northland sand dunes
Police have found even more methamphetamine hidden in sand dunes in the country's largest ever meth bust.
Police initially said their 90 Mile Beach bust had seized 448kg of the drug, but later on Tuesday said they had found another 50kg in the sand.
No value was given of the latest find, but the new find brings the total to 494kg, with a likely value of close to half a billion dollars.
Police said that the latest find came after a forensic investigation of a Toyota Prado used by the culprits, in which police found a GPS device.
The device provided them with a set of co-ordinates which lead police to sand dunes on the Hutakere region on 90 Mile Beach.
Digging in to the sand, they found another stash of bags full of the illicit drug.
Northland Police made the record seizure of methamphetamine in an investigation that started with finding a boat abandoned at 90 Mile Beach.
The seizure outstrips the total combined amount of methamphetamine seized in New Zealand in 2015, which totalled 334kg - and has earned police praise from PM John Key.
Early on Sunday morning a boat was found with a number of mesh bags in the back of it.
Police first reported that one boat was found, however, on Tuesday afternoon a police spokeswoman confirmed a second boat was seized and was included in the investigation.
Police had information a Toyota Prado and a rental campervan were seen nearby with the drivers acting suspiciously, offering large amounts of cash to locals for assistance to launch boats off the beach.
While police were at 90 Mile Beach to recover the boat the Toyota Prado drove past.
The driver failed to stop for Police and a pursuit began.
The vehicle stopped a short distance later at the Ahipara Golf Course.
A 31-year-old man and a 26-year-old man from Auckland were arrested and taken back to the Kaitaia Police Station.
Several hours later, an off-duty police officer spotted the campervan at Totara North and called for backup.
Officers looked in the back of the campervan and saw what appeared to be multiple bags of methamphetamine.
Northland Police District Commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou said it was a great find for the young policeman - or anyone for that matter.
"[it was a] great piece of cop work by a 'young copper' who had already knocked off and was heading home when he saw the campervan, had a look at it, got involved and called for assistance.
"And look what he found! What a find for a young fella, or anyone actually," Le Prou said.
The 19-year-old driver and the campervan were taken back to the Kaitaia Police Station, where a further search of the campervan found multiple suitcases and bags.
Inside the suitcases and bags were dozens of plastic zip-lock bags, containing methamphetamine.
"This is without a doubt, the largest ever seizure of methamphetamine in New Zealand, and what is so great about this is that it's not only the result of hard work by the Northland Police, but it's the result of information we got from the community," Le Prou said.
"We received notification of several cases of suspicious behaviour in the past few weeks, and that has allowed us to get to this point.
"Wherever this methamphetamine was headed, it was going to cause harm, and it's thanks to the Kaitaia community, who were not going to tolerate this, that we've managed to stop the harm from this massive haul of meth" Le Prou said.
The methamphetamine has since been removed from the Kaitaia Police Station and investigations were und-erway into where the methamphetamine had come from.
Many of the bags showed signs of exposure to salt water on the outside, leading police to believe a boat that's been involved.
"The methamphetamine show signs of being in salt water, so that leads us to believe that's possibly how it came onto shore."
Those behind the massive haul of methamphetamine, worth nearly $500m, were running a business the size of a top 50 company.
The value of the illicit drug comes close to Auckland International Airport's revenue last year of $508.5m.
It's also not too far off casino operator Sky City's reported revenue for the first half of this year of $513.7m. It is somewhat shy of Fisher and Paykel Healthcare's 2015 operating revenue of $623.4m.
However the haul beats fast food operator Restaurant Brands' latest annual sales of $387.6m. Restaurant Brands owns the KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Carls Jr franchises.
All of these corporates are on the New Zealand stock exchange's NZX50 index of the country's largest listed companies.
Police and Customs believe the drugs had been retrieved from the waters off 90 Mile Beach.
An ongoing joint investigation involving with Customs is underway into this aspect of the case.
Customs Investigations Manager Maurice O'Brien said Customs with continue to work with Police throughout the investigation, and will continue to do so to identify everyone involved and obtain all the relevant evidence.
PRAISE FROM PRIME MINISTER
Prime Minister John Key praised police for their work in capturing the "enormous haul".
"I don't want to speak for the police because they've been working on the operation for some time...but what it shows you is the extra resources and authority we've given them is allowing them to be successful, because this is the second very significant haul we've seen in recent times."
Police Minister Judith Collins and Customs Minister Nicky Wagner congratulated the local community, Northland Police and Customs for the record-breaking methamphetamine seizure in Kaitaia yesterday.
"Police are deadly serious about cutting the supply of methamphetamine and bringing those who peddle this drug to account," said Collins.
"I hope this seizure stands as an inspiration for those who have information about suspicious activities in our communities to report it to Police, and play a role in making all of our communities safer".
Police were unable to make any comments as to where the methamphetamine came from, not wanting to jeopardise the ongoing investigation, but said due to the sheer size of the haul, organised crime was probably somewhere behind it.
Haami Piripi, Chairman of local Iwi group, Te Runanga o Te Rarawa said it was not surprising to hear that the three men had been caught.
"All our Maori are taking a more proactive role in protecting our coastline.
"The main thing is that we have prevented this curse from landing among our whanau and children," said Piripi.
Another local says the boat was found at Hukatere north of the Waipapakauri Ramp, north of Kaitaia.
All three men appeared in the Kaitaia District Court on Tuesday morning, jointly charged with importing Class A drugs and Possession for supply of a class A drug, namely methamphetamine.
They all had had their names suppressed and were remanded in custody with no plea until July.
The investigation will be ongoing and Police would like to hear from anyone who may have noticed suspicious activity from anyone travelling in a Toyota Prado with a boat or travelling with a campervan in the Far North over the past two weeks to contact Kaitaia Police on 09 408 6500.