New Zealand Customs says drug mules from South America appear to be targeting this country in an attempt to establish a market for cocaine.
The amount of the drug being intercepted has multiplied rapidly in the past two years, from 733 grams in 2008 to more than 10 kilograms this year, it says. Cocaine has a street value of about $400 a gram.
Customs says all of those involved in recent cocaine busts were of South American descent, with many having swallowed drug-filled pellets.
Police say there would be a high social cost if cocaine becomes established in New Zealand, rivalling the harm caused by methamphetamine.