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Building Customs drug detection across the Pacific

03.33pm 12 December 2023 | News

Frontline Customs officers and officials from 18 Pacific nations have been welcomed for a week-long training and visit focussed on illicit drug smuggling, which is being co-hosted by the New Zealand Customs Service and Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO).   
Following a ceremony held at the Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa Marae near Auckland Airport (Monday 11 December), the drug identification training is being held at Customs’ premises for the rest of the week. 

The training aims to provide participants with enhanced skillsets in detecting, identifying and handling drugs, as well as training on relevant legislation and further insight into Customs’ operational areas.  
New Zealand Customs Director International, Joe Cannon, says the Pacific region is a known transit point for illicit drugs, driven by transnational organised crime groups and the rising demand and drug prices in New Zealand and Australia. Drug trafficking also has a huge impact on the health, security and economies of Pacific Island states.   
“We are pleased to be working with the Oceania Customs Organisation to support the capability development of our Pacific colleagues. 
“Drug seizures at the New Zealand border show the volume of illegal drugs is increasing and criminals are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to smuggle harmful drugs into our communities for profit.   
“Training opportunities such as this help customs agencies to share experiences and expertise to enhance our collective ability to stay one step ahead of transnational organised crime groups. By helping to protect each other's borders, we are strengthening our own border too,” says Mr Cannon.   
OCO Head of Secretariat, Nancy T. Oraka, said the Pacific market’s increasing demand has made the region a focal point for drug traffickers. “The Pacific region with its sprawling archipelagos serves as a transhipment hub for organised criminal groups trafficking cocaine and methamphetamine. These illicit substances journey from the Americas, Europe and Asia finding their way to lucrative markets in the Pacific Islands. 

“I acknowledge New Zealand Customs Service and all our partners that have ensured this training is held. We are the first line of defence for our borders and it is our duty to protect our nations, our people, our children.”