Customs has made its largest-ever methamphetamine seizure after a 16-month investigation.
The 176kg haul, with a potential street value of $176 million, was made when Customs intercepted 10 shipping containers in July that had been sent from China.
The bags of drugs had been tied together and hidden in pillars of the container doors which had been welded up. Customs believe a string at the top of the pillar would have been used to pull the drugs out of the concealed cavity. They think some of the bags had been contaminated by sea water.
A 20-year-old Hong Kong man appeared in the Auckland District Court on Friday morning, charged in relation to the smuggling operation.
Customs' investigation began when it identified a company set up in June 2015, which it believed was being used to smuggle the drugs.
The 20-year-old man was arrested in early October, Customs says, after two search warrants showed his involvement with the shipment.
It's the biggest meth bust for Customs, but the biggest meth bust for police was in June 2016, when they made a total meth haul of 494kg at 90 Mile Beach.
Jamie Bamford, manager of Customs Intelligence, Investigations & Enforcement unit, says the operation is ongoing and they're not ruling out further arrests.
"Customs remains focussed on disrupting transnational smuggling through our role at the border and dismantling the criminal syndicates involved," Mr Bamford says.
"This seizure will have prevented New Zealand's criminal gangs from profiting from the misery caused by pushing meth through our cities and rural communities."
The man’s next appearance is scheduled for November 17 in the Auckland District Court.