Pair sentenced to prison after New Zealand's largest-ever meth bust

Two people convicted for being involved in the import of 501kg of methamphetamine have been sentenced to prison.

Stevie Cullen and Selaima Fakaosilea were found guilty earlier this year on charges of importing methamphetamine and participating in an organised criminal group. 

The charges related to the import of 501kgs of meth at Ninety Mile Beach in June 2016.

The haul is New Zealand's largest ever meth bust and others involved in the importation have previously been convicted.

Cullen was sentenced to 27 years in prison, with a minimum period of imprisonment of nine years, on the import charge. On the charge of participating in an organised criminal group, he was sentenced to five years in jail, to be served concurrently.

Fakaosilea was given a sentence of 12 years and six months, with a minimum parole period of seven years. This is a cumulative sentence to the 14 years and six months she is currently serving for another offence.

She is a relative to late All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, who she reportedly referred to as "uncle".

When handing down her sentencing, Judge Christine Gordon said that she considered the culpability of the individuals and what roles they had within the wider import operation.

While neither were at the top of the food chain, Judge Gordon said they both performed important tasks.

The criminal group they were associated with gave themselves nicknames such as 'Thugga', 'Mack' and 'Gravel' and they communicated via Blackberry phones about counting drug money which they called 'folding laundry or clothes'.

The operation in New Zealand was split into two groups - one led by a Hong Kong national who arranged to retrieve the meth from the sea. The other group was directed by Australian national Jeremiah Iusitini.

Jeremiah Iusitini was in charge of organising logistics - this included Selaima's brother Ulukai Fakaosilea who was a driver for those who had come from overseas to take part in the plan.

On June 5, 2016, they bought a boat for NZ$40,000 in cash and got locals in Ahipara to help them launch it, saying they were there to spread a relatives' ashes.

The boat was damaged in the process of launching into rough seas so they went to Pakuranga in Auckland to buy another boat, which they paid for in cash at a price tag of $98,000.

That same night they returned to Ahipara and picked up 494kg of meth that had been dropped out to sea.

Having been alerted to the suspicious activity by the locals, police found the abandoned boat on the beach. While they were investigating it, Ulakai drove past and was spotted by officers who chased and arrested him.

Police later found a campervan with suitcases packed with meth and a further 50kg buried in sand dunes.

Detective Senior Sergeant Lloyd Schmid says the arrests and convictions are a "great outcome".

"I want to acknowledge the local community in the Kaitaia area who witnessed unusual behaviour and notified police," he says.

"They could tell there was illegal activity taking place and they were not going to tolerate this offending in their own community."

He says police will continue to do everything they can to disrupt meth supply chains and prevent further harm in the community.

"We hope this result sends a strong message to criminals that the consequences for this type of drug offending are extremely serious and you will be arrested and held to account," he says.