Four men have been arrested after a man was caught at Auckland Airport with two suitcases containing cocaine worth an estimated $NZ1 million ($A953,153) in Auckland on Friday.
Police say they’re also looking for 43-year-old Rodrigo Gerlach Rila, a Brazilian national who once lived on Auckland’s North Shore.
Rila is believed to be travelling in a white 1997 Toyota van.
Police on Friday arrested the 42-year-old man who allegedly tried to bring the cocaine into New Zealand.
They later arrested a 31-year-old in Auckland as he prepared to take the drugs to the South Island, and two men, aged 35 and 36, in Christchurch.
All four have been charged with drug importation and supply offences.
Despite the Auckland seizure and 3kg of cocaine being found recently in a shipping container in Christchurch, Canterbury University criminologist Greg Newbold says cocaine is unlikely to take off in New Zealand because it is so expensive and can’t be produced locally.
Professor Newbold says cocaine seizures are very rare in New Zealand.
Most of the world’s cocaine is consumed in Europe and the United States, where it is often associated with the wealthy and affluent, he says.
“The effects of cocaine wear off quickly and a user needs repeated doses to stay high for an evening, so it makes for an expensive night.”
New Zealand border controls were also very efficient, which made it difficult to import, he said.
Most illegal drugs used in New Zealand have been locally produced, such as marijuana, heroin, morphine and methamphetamine.
Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which is found primarily in South America.
“At the moment there are no domestic sources for cocaine. So the high cost of cocaine, its short-lasting effects, the difficulty in importing it, and the maximum life sentence attached to it, will deter most potential importers and means that the drug is unlikely to gain a foothold in New Zealand,” Prof Newbold said.