Police investigating the record methamphetamine seizure in Northland have found more of the drug.
They earlier seized a 448kg haul -- the biggest bust in New Zealand history -- after finding an abandoned boat on 90 Mile Beach.
The total weight of the methamphetamine is now 494kg (NZ Police)
Officers have now examined a handheld GPS found in the alleged offenders' vehicle, which contained a set of coordinates. A team of officers went to the site of those coordinates, which took them to sand dunes on the Hukatere region of 90 Mile Beach, close to where the original boat was left abandoned.
There they dug into the sand, and found another stash of bags full of methamphetamine, taking the total amount recovered now to 494kg.
A second boat, located at an Ahipara address, has also been seized as part of the operation.
Police say it's "without a doubt" the biggest bust in New Zealand's history.
"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," says district commander Superintendent Russell Le Prou.
Early on Sunday morning police found an abandoned boat on 90 Mile Beach with "a number of mesh bags on the back of it".
They immediately began looking for a Toyota Prado and a rental campervan, because locals had reported the occupants acting suspiciously and offering large amounts of cash for assistance launching boats off the beach.
Mesh bags for transporting the methamphetamine (NZ Police)
While they were recovering the boat the Prado drove past, failed to stop when signalled and a pursuit began. The occupants -- two men, aged 31 and 26 -- were arrested at the Ahipara Golf Course a short time later.
Hours later, the campervan was spotted in Totara North. Inside, police found "what appeared to be multiple bags of methamphetamine".
The 19-year-old driver was arrested, and a thorough search of the campervan uncovered even more meth -- inside zip-lock bags, hidden inside suitcases and other bags.
A joint police and Customs investigation is now underway as to where the meth came from and where it was headed. They believe the drugs have been retrieved from the waters off 90 Mile Beach, as many of the bags showed signs of exposure to salt water.
"You may infer from that that it's possibly been left out at sea for a while and picked up by that smaller boat," Supt Le Prou told RNZ.
"If New Zealand was the ultimate destination, I would say 448kg would have made a significant impact on New Zealand ... that level of harm we can't tolerate."
The total amount of meth seized in 2015 was 334kg.
The three appeared in 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 were granted name suppression and have been remanded in custody.
"We received notification of several cases of suspicious behaviour in the past few weeks, and that has allowed us to get to this point," says Supt Le Prou.
He said the Kaitaia community had helped stop the drugs getting into the country by keeping police informed about suspicious activity.
Prime Minister John Key said the seizure was a clear sign police were equipped to deal with the problem.
"I think it also answers some of the questions about how this precursor is getting into New Zealand and where maybe the police need to focus their attention," he said.
But Labour Leader Andrew Little said the problem was getting worse and more large hauls were likely to be seen.
"Many, many weeks in each year we are seeing the police busting clandestine labs. Now you get big busts like this. There is a big problem and the police should be supported and resourced, not have their funding frozen."
Police want to hear from anyone else who noticed suspicious behaviour from anyone in Northland, travelling in a Toyota Prado with a boat or campervan, in the past two weeks. They can be contacted on (09) 408 6500, or information can be given anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Newshub. / NZN