New Zealand is seen as a remunerative market since purchasers are always been willing to pay higher prices for their illegal drugs. This is naturally engaging the interplay of the price mechanism, forcing the price of such drugs to rise in the country. Since suppliers are always willing to supply more at a higher price, the drug inflow through the country’s border has also increased significantly leading to a higher number of intercepted drugs by customs agents.
The Detective Superintending Officer of the Police Department, Greg Williams, said to reporters that 4-5g of methamphetamine was sold at a street price of $2,500 in New Zealand. A reasonably heavy user might use this quantity in a week. The drug traffickers risk having some of their products taken by the Customs officers since they are inexpensive to be produced overseas.
The New Zealand Customs Service has seized many packages over the years. According to data, the number of intercepted drug packages increases annually. The NZCS intercepted 35 packages of cocaine alone in 2015. This number skyrocketed to 93 in just a year. Going by the trend, it can be clearly seen that the number of intercepted drugs was quite small 10 years ago, but has increased significantly in the subsequent years. Methamphetamine, which is one of the highly trafficked drugs has also increased 10 times in five years. LSD, Ecstasy, and Opioids are the other drugs that are trafficked into the country. New Zealand has responded to the high drug influx by seizing and arresting traffickers to send a message. They arrested 13 drug traffickers last year and prosecuted them.
In 2016, 3,166 drugs were intercepted at the Auckland Airport International Mail alone, recording an unprecedented increase compared to the 2012 data. In relation to the high influx of drugs into the country, a lot of overdose deaths have been linked to illegally imported drugs, especially fentanyl which is trafficked in higher quantities. According to a report, there are gangs that secretly work with partners in China to get drugs from selected Chinese underground labs into the country. Sometimes, New Zealand is used as a transit stop from where drugs are trafficked to Australia.
Just as the rate of drug importation into the country increases, there has been an equal interception by the customs service. In 2015, it was revealed that Drug detection dogs were trained to assist the fight against drug trafficking in the country. The effort to intercept the large trafficked drugs has been effective so far considering the rate and frequency of drug seizure. The country’s custom has improved at intercepting mail substances in recent years. The New Zealand authorities do not only intend to seize drugs, but to ensure that the traffickers are arrested and subjected to the law. Even though the new method of drug packaging and new ways of distributing them will likely be used, the customs service is well prepared to meet the task.
The Executive Director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, Ross Bell, disagreed with the view that high retail drug prices in New Zealand were driving Customs’ seizures up. Ross said that for the past few years, Customs had been empowered both financially and technically to gather intelligence about drugs, making it more competent.
He disclosed that it was impossible to detect where the spikes originated from. Bell also defended his country stating that the high retail prices of methamphetamine, MDMA, and cocaine were a result of New Zealand’s distance from the countries where these drugs were being produced. He believes that illicit drug trades as expensive were actually a positive thing because it would scare people away.
He also described the issue with methamphetamine as “the balloon effect”. “When you get a balloon and you squeeze one part, it is going to pop out somewhere else,” Bell stated. He indicated that the only way to reduce demand was to support addicts and educate the public about the dangers of illicit drug use.