The drug packages—wrapped in blue plastic, were found by a local resident at Bethells Beach, west of Auckland. They were scattered all over the beach, according to Fox News.
After finding the packages, the resident quickly alerted authorities to the find. Arriving on the scene, they inspected the packages, finding they tested positive for cocaine. Authorities conducted a thorough search looking for any more that might have washed ashore.
Each package was roughly the size of a VHS tape.
According to the New Zealand Herald, referencing a retired police officer, police are looking into where the drugs came from and their arrival destination.
The news outlet reported that in total, the resident found 19 of the blue packages. CNN reported that a helicopter search is being conducted to establish the source, and police will be patrolling the area, keeping an eye on the beach for more packages.
In a statement from New Zealand police, Detective Inspector Colin Parmenter of Waitematä police said that the customs service has been assisting in the search for more packages.
“Police with the assistance of New Zealand Customs Service have conducted a thorough search of the beach and surrounding areas in an effort to locate any further packages,” the statement read. “There is a small possibility that further packages may turn up on the beach and we ask any members of the public to contact us immediately if they do.”
Jose Sousa-Santos, a pacific crime researcher at Massey University in New Zealand, reported to The Guardian that there was a high possibility that the cocaine came from Peru or Columbia. He said from those places, the price of cocaine was around $7,000 – $7,500 per 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram).
Cocaine is the most expensive drug in New Zealand, and it sells for around $250,000 per 2.2 pounds. The Guardian report said that Australian’s are the highest per capita users of the drug in the world. Meanwhile, in the UK, the price for the drug was around $50,000 to $60,000 per 2.2 pounds.
“There is a huge mark-up and quite a big margin of profit to be made by these syndicates. So they can definitely afford to lose consignments to the tune of $3m[million],” Sousa-Santos said.
The retired police officer said that this portion of cocaine might be a part of a larger shipment, except that it managed to get lost and wash up on a beach in New Zealand. He said that it was very likely that the cocaine was shipped rather than flown. He indicated that positive results might come from looking into boats at sea to find the source of the drugs, according to the New Zealand Herald. “The most likely thing I would think is that a boat has come in and dropped it off and then someone else has gone out and picked it up,” the retired police officer said.
Sousa-Santos also shared similar views on the possible source of the drugs. He said that they might be from smaller ships aiming to avoid detection by authorities, considering that cocaine is illegal, according to The Guardian. Sousa-Santos noted that there was a possibility that the drugs might have traveled across the Tasman from Australia, a trip of around 1242.75 miles. In such a case, smaller boats could be useful.
He also suspected that people deported from Australia to New Zealand might be involved in trafficking these drugs, The Guardian reported. According to him, “many of these deportees have powerful ties to outlaw motorcycle gangs and criminal syndicates in Australia. Arriving in New Zealand, they often have no family links. They have no ties to the community or job opportunities, so they go back into the pattern of reoffending.”
Regardless, this is not the first time drugs have washed up on New Zealand’s coast. In the past drugs have been found by locals and other people buried in dunes, according to The Guardian.
Back in 2016, 1100 pounds of methamphetamine was seized by the police in New Zealand that came from a boat that washed up on the North Island of the country, according to CNN. The amount was estimated to be worth around $323 million.