Plethora of drugs being seized

Intercepted . . . Customs Dunedin port manager Mike Bennet (left) and senior customs officer Glyn Rees inspect some intercepted pure ecstasy powder in Dunedin last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

A smorgasbord of drugs is being seized by New Zealand Customs in Dunedin.

An Official Information Act request to Customs revealed the items seized by the service in Dunedin between the start of 2014 until the end of March this year.

Drugs featured heavily in the data – the mix including methamphetamine, morphine, MDMA and prescription medicines.

Nearly 1300 items of prescription medicine were seized at Dunedin Airport in the first three months of this year.

This compares to the nearly 4000 items of prescription medicine seized at Dunedin Airport in 2014.

Customs Dunedin port manager Mike Bennet said a person arriving in Dunedin carrying prescription medicines must ensure they declare the possession of those medicines on their passenger arrival card and have a copy of the doctor’s prescription or a letter from a doctor stating they were being treated with the medicine.

Prescription medicine should be carried in its original containers.

“Unfortunately, some people don’t do that and they bring in their medication all mixed up.”

Seized prescription medicine was sent to Medsafe, the New Zealand Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority, which would decide if it could be returned to the person it was seized from.

“If it’s for blood pressure or heart medication, we are not going to take it all off them. We’ll let them have some as we don’t want them to die.”

Many psychoactive drugs were seized by New Zealand Post.

Drugs sent to Dunedin addresses were frequently intercepted at its International Mail Centre in Auckland, Mr Bennet said.

Bigger hauls sparked the execution of a search warrant “which does happen quite regularly”.

Any smaller quantity of a drug – about 300g or less – in mail destined for Dunedin was processed in South Dunedin. Customs staff in Dunedin examined undelivered mail in the city every two weeks.

“We do find drugs – not a huge amount but bits and pieces like MDMA (ecstasy), morphine and some LSD.”

The data reveals more than 400g of ecstasy, more than a litre of gamma-hydroxybutyrate, also known as liquid ecstasy, and nearly 70g of methamphetamine were seized in Dunedin last year.

Mr Bennett had worked in the job for 17 years and a trend he had seen was an ingredient to manufacture methamphetamine dropping from a list of most-seized items. Pseudoephedrine pills – a sinus decongestant – were once a popular item to smuggle, as they could be used to make methamphetamine.

“We used to get heaps and heaps of that coming into the country. But we don’t see that now – now it’s straight methamphetamine they are smuggling in,” Mr Bennett said.

Data from the National Wastewater Testing Programme shows Dunedin has the second highest proportion of ecstasy use in New Zealand in the three months to January. It had a 65% prevalence per capita at the Tahuna wastewater plant, and 48% at the Green Island plant. Queenstown was highest at 70%.