Auckland Airport's on-site scientists are cutting drug-testing times from weeks to days, helping speed up prosecutions and police investigations, says Customs.
The Institute of Environmental Science and Research's airport laboratory has been open for almost 18 months, and has tested more than 2000 suspect materials.
Auckland Airport manager of operations Bruce Berry said speeding up the testing process was crucial to helping Customs find the people behind major drug importations.
"Everything these days is time driven so the longer it takes for us to identify a sample, the longer it takes to enable that enforcement action, the more likely that the bad guy knows what we are doing."
Mr Berry said Customs was now often noticing drug trafficking trends before the police did.
"In some instances we are seeing drugs prior to them appearing on the streets, so we are able to inform the police, and other times the police are finding substances that we can then backtrack to different importations.
"So it enables us to be on the front foot because internationally this is a growth industry - there are new substances being created all the time, so just identifying what they are is a key element."