Concern international crime groups will turn to NZ due to high meth cost amid global price fall

Kiwi meth users pay some of the highest retail prices in the world.
Kiwi meth users pay some of the highest retail prices in the world. Photo credit: RNZ

New Zealand police are increasingly concerned drug manufacturers will target New Zealand as an increase in meth production pushes prices down around the world.

Kiwi meth users pay some of the highest retail prices in the world with The New Zealand Drug Foundation estimating 100mg costs about $100.

This is sparking concerns international drug manufacturers may turn to New Zealand in the hopes of better returns as prices fall globally. 

NZ Drug Foundation executive director Sarah Helm said the high price of meth in Aotearoa "makes us an attractive market" for those trying to sell it. 

And it's a concern shared by police. Director of the National Organised Crime Group Detective Superintendent Greg Williams shared some insight on methamphetamine in police's latest suspicious activity report. Williams said it's "not a good news story for New Zealand" and warned transnational crime groups are targeting the country. 

"In the last five years New Zealand police have identified and disrupted 24 of these cells," he said. 

Police say Aotearoa's meth trade alone generates close to $300 million a year, and if other illicit drugs are considered, around $750 million is generated annually.  Williams said the sale of meth still remains to be primarily "cash at the gate".

"While some of the cash is consumed within communities, a substantial amount must be introduced into the licit financial system for it to be available or transferable."

Williams said once supply lines have been established in Aotearoa and the product is brought into the country, the crime groups seek out New Zealand-based money launderers to get illicit cash into the financial system. 

He said the people employed to undertake cash depositing are predominantly in Auckland.

"These deposits are usually at the teller and most often into third-party accounts. The cumulative amounts are surprising, as some deposits can be very small but could also range upwards of well over $100,000."

And William's said it's happening every day. He added one of the simplest levers to pull is to interrupt these deposits "because if they can’t get cash into the system they cannot function". 

Helm said Aotearoa cannot rely on drug busts and supply interventions to tackle methamphetamine. She would instead like to expand Northland's Te Ara Oranga meth rehab program nationwide.

Te Ara Oranga is a cross-agency initiative with police, health providers and other community organisations working to reduce harm in Northland. 

A report in March found there had been a 34 percent reduction in harm from offending among the people in the programme.