Christchurch police are calling in government agencies to help crack what they say is an organised ring of car thieves and vehicle dismantlers working together to export stolen parts.
They say at least 23 stolen vehicles have been found at one scrap-metal dealership in Rolleston south of the city this week.
Officers have also visited other businesses as part of a clampdown on second-hand and scrap-metal dealers.
Detective Senior Sergeant Corrie Parnell says the search has also located two container-loads of parts that appeared to be destined for export markets such as Fiji and Malaysia.
He says it seems to be a large-scale operation, and police will be looking closely at links between offenders, metal dealers and markets for the vehicles and parts.
Mr Parnell says the scale of the operation indicates it is part of an organised crime ring, but further investigation is needed to confirm that. He says the business owner has been spoken to and charges related to receiving stolen goods are likely to be laid next week.
The scrap-metal recycling association is warning anyone buying metal to make sure they're purchasing from an authorised dealer.
President Korina Kirk says the industry adheres to strict legislation, and while it's disheartening that some businesses are apparently acting illegally, it's good to see the law being enforced.