Armed police operation across upper North Island

Cash seized from a property in Otahuhu (File)
Cash seized from a property in Otahuhu (File)

Eighteen people have been detained during an extensive drug bust launched by police across the upper North Island this morning.

More than 30 search warrants were executed across Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Northland, targeting the supply and manufacture of methamphetamine (P).

Five firearms have been found throughout the day at various addresses, and multiple vehicles including a Harley Davidson and Chevrolet Camaro have been seized by the Police Asset Recovery Unit.

Two clan labs were found at rural Bay of Plenty properties.

In all, 160 police officers searched a range of residential and business addresses, while the armed offenders squad was used as a precautionary measure to gain entry into at least four properties.

One of the search warrants was carried out at a tyre shop in Otahuhu where a bag of cash worth estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars was found hidden in a tyre, as well as a kilogram of ephedrine, used to make methamphetamine, worth around $120,000.

In another tyre was two kilograms of ephedrine.

Casino chips, cash and several expensive cars were also seized. Hundreds of tyre rims have been removed.

The tyre shop continues to be searched this afternoon.

"These drugs and money have been well concealed and were hidden at the bottom of a pile of dozens of other tyres," says Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid.

"This is a huge find and goes to show the efforts that people go to when it comes to meth and the chemicals used to make it."

Eleven men and four women are due to appear in the Auckland District Court today.

A 59-year-old man has appeared in the Kaikohe District court charged with supplying P and participating in an organised crime group.

Another man has appeared in the Hamilton District Court, and another in the Rotorua District Court.

Two search warrants were carried out in Canterbury but no arrests have been made in the region.

However, a shotgun and ammunition was found at a property in the Christchurch suburb of Northwood.

The bust this morning was the culmination of a long-running investigation into an organised criminal group believed to be accountable for a methamphetamine manufacture and supply ring.

Five of the people thought to be involved are associated with the Head Hunters gang. Two clandestine labs were found at residential properties in Oropi.

"At one of these search warrants in Otahuhu this morning, we've found $6500 worth of casino chips in the boot of a Mercedes," Det Snr Sgt Schmid said.

"We suspect that these are linked to money laundering -- hiding money that's been obtained from selling meth."

Bundles of money have also been found, including US currency.