Christmas has come early for Customs officers this year.
In the past staff have had to accompany drug mules who had swallowed illegal substances to the toilet.
Sometimes it took several days to scoop up all the drugs - usually in thumb-sized condom-wrapped pellets - as they were expelled into the toilet.
Officers had to wash the pellets carefully by latex-gloved hand for later use as evidence in court.
Up to a dozen times a year staff had to get their hands dirty and Customs admitted it was "not a popular task".
But life has got a lot easier with the early Christmas present of a new "portable drug loo", which automatically collects, washes, sanitises and drains the pellets, and transfers them into evidence containers.
Though Customs officers still accompany the person to the loo to make sure they don't try to conceal the drugs elsewhere or swallow them again, there is no more sifting through faeces to recover the evidence.
The stainless-steel drug loo has viewing windows in its bowels that let staff keep watch on the drugs at all times, which is important for evidential purposes.
It has wheels, so that it can easily be taken to different locations if there is more than one person in custody, or by car to different sites.
- © Fairfax NZ News