New Zealand Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the cocaine was dropped in 81 bales on a floating transit point before being intercepted by a naval vessel deployed to the area last week. The ship then made the six-day journey back to New Zealand where the drugs were documented and destroyed.
Coster said the wholesale value of the 3.2 tonnes (3.5 metric tons) of cocaine was about New Zealand $500 million ($316 million) and was likely destined for Australia.
“We believe there was enough cocaine to supply the Australian market for about a year, which would be more than New Zealand would use in 30 years,” Coster said.
He said police, customs and the military found the drugs after launching Operation Hydros in December working with partner international agencies to identify and track the movements of suspected ships.
Coster said they would continue to investigate the matter with other international agencies.
Bill Perry, the acting comptroller of New Zealand Customs, said the capture illustrated how far organized syndicates went to smuggle drugs in the South Pacific.
“We see that maybe this is just an indication that the transnational organized crime groups are testing the market in different ways, so as agencies we need to work together,” Perry said.