NEW Zealand authorities seized 26 kilograms of cocaine from a reefer after an attempted break-in at the Port of Tauranga.

NZ Customs Service said security at the Port of Tauranga contacted police last weekend (16-17 September) when security detected signs of a break-in.

Police arrested three alleged offenders, and customs officers searched 36 containers over two days.

The containers were destined for various areas in New Zealand, including Tauranga and Auckland.

One search uncovered a quantity of plastic-wrapped ‘bricks’ inside the refrigeration unit of a refrigerated shipping container, which were later confirmed to be cocaine.

Customs estimates the 26 kilograms seized could have produced around 260,000 doses worth nearly $12 million in street sales.

Port of Tauranga chief executive Leonard Sampson thanked customs and police for their quick response.

“Port security did an outstanding job in identifying suspicious activity on the port boundary and I thank our team for their ongoing vigilance,” Mr Sampson said.

“Customs is seeing an increase in quantities of drugs attempting to be smuggled into New Zealand, particularly via shipping channels.

“We remain alert to trends and use our network of intelligence and investigative resources to identify, target and stop such criminal activities.”

Customs group manager maritime Paul Campbell said the volume of containers searched by the customs team demonstrated the magnitude of protecting the modern maritime supply chain.

“A significant quantity of cocaine has been stopped from ending up in our communities. This result is thanks to close collaboration with our partners,” Mr Campbell said.

“Police were outstanding in their support and the Port of Tauranga security team maintained their tradition of vigilance by alerting authorities straight away.”

Detective Senior Sergeant Steve Ambler thanked customs staff for their vigilance at the border.

“Together we will continue to investigate, and hold to account, those involved in the importation and distribution of controlled drugs in New Zealand.

“Police are committed to disrupting organised criminal groups and the supply and distribution of illicit drugs in our communities.”

According to the Drug Harm Index, the seizure may have prevented nearly $8 million in social harm.