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Drug-awareness training in the Pacific

NZ Customs Policy Analyst Pacific Security Andrew Walker (left) with officers and officials from Samoa Customs, NZ Police Superintendent Ross Ardern (right), and ESR forensic scientist Dr Robyn Somerville.

Drug-awareness training
in the Pacific

Officials from the New Zealand Customs Service, New Zealand Police, and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) are providing drug-awareness training to law enforcement and private sector groups in the Pacific.  

NZ Customs Policy Analyst Pacific Security Andrew Walker, along with NZ Police Superintendent Ross Ardern and ESR forensic scientist Dr Robyn Somerville deliver the half-day training sessions. 

The training builds on the methamphetamine (‘P’) awareness programme run in 2010. The 2013 programme has delivered presentations in Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands and is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade-administered Pacific Security Fund.

The sessions aim to improve border security through raising awareness of drug trends in the Pacific, and improve the ability for Pacific agencies to test for illicit drugs. 

Andrew Walker says training from NZ Customs focuses on drug trafficking in and through the Pacific, methods of concealment and instruction on using presumptive field test kits.

Superintendent Ardern shares information about the changing drug situation in the Pacific, with a focus on methamphetamine. Dr Somerville provides information about clandestine meth labs and the role of ESR – including what is required to send a sample to ESR. 

While presumptive tests are very helpful during Customs inspections and investigations, an evidential laboratory test is required for court.  Most Pacific Island Countries do not have the facilities to conduct these tests and use the services of the ESR in NZ or labs in Australia for evidential testing.

Andrew Walker says training sessions will be delivered in Vanuatu in May 2013 and Fiji in June.

“As much as possible we tailor the sessions to the local audience and use examples of recent local and regional seizures.

“As well as ongoing instances of Pacific countries being used as transit points for illicit drugs by transnational organised crime groups, some Pacific island countries are seeing changes in domestic drug use.  Samoa for example has seen cannabis cultivation and use for many years but is now starting to see methamphetamine-related cases before the courts.  So it is a good time to spread the word about the dangers of this insidious trade”.

Along with the sessions, all participating countries have been supplied with presumptive drug test kits which allow officers to chemically test samples. “IDenta” presumptive drug field test kits are supplied to Customs and Police in each country.  The kits were recommended by the National Drug Intelligence Bureau and an initial trial by Samoa Police found them to be a good fit for the Pacific environment.