A desire for tighter border control in the Pacific has led to the first step towards re-establishing ties between the New Zealand police and their Fiji counterparts.
A team from the New Zealand police dog unit have returned from a trip to Fiji where they looked at ways of assisting the canine unit there.
The New Zealand Police Pacific Liaison Officer Superintendent Ross Ardern says they are still in the early stages of the review, but told Bridget Tunnicliffe that the focus is around border security and drug detector programmes for dogs.
ROSS ADERN: Well, it was a joint visit with Customs New Zealand to make an assessment of the capability, principally around border security in Nadi for the drug detector programme for dogs. I was accompanied on the trip by the national dog manager Inspector Bernard Gibson from NZ Police.
BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Have the NZ Police worked with Fiji's canine unit in the past?
ROSS ADERN: We have a very long history of work with the canine unit. It goes back as far as the 1960s, where we started work with them in relation to the dog unit in Suva. Their dog unit has expanded quite dramatically. The idea of our visit was purely to give them assistance around looking at where they needed to be in terms of the number of dogs and the number of officers that they deploy.
BT: And the potential areas that you could foresee the NZ unit helping them with are particularly the customs area?
RA: Well, look, we're in the embryonic stages of the review at the moment. But certainly our focus is around border security and a lot of that, of course, is around Nadi and Suva and the ports of entry are around Fiji. Drug seizures across the Pacific are becoming of more and more note. New Zealand, of course, has got its own interests at heart, as well as those who are its Pacific neighbours. And we want to protect not only their borders, but our borders, as well, from drug infiltration across the Pacific.
BT: Over the past few years there's been a little bit of political tension between Fiji and New Zealand. But when you go over there and you talk to the police over there, I imagine politics just doesn't even come to it when you're actually talking to police over there.
RA: Look, we've had very good guidelines issues to us by the New Zealand government. We can, from the NZ Police perspective, continue to engage on operational matters, and we have during all the troubles that we've had. We've discussed with them a wide range of issues, but they're all operational matters.
BT: Are the New Zealand police engaged with the Fiji police in any other areas at the moment?
RA: No, this is the only point of interest we have with them at the moment. But we are considering other requests that have been made by Fiji police.
BT: They were appreciative of the visit, I imagine?
RA: The hospitality extended to us by the Fijian police commissioner and his staff was just incredible. They're always very enthusiastic about the visits from NZ Police, particularly around the dog programme. That long history there is greatly appreciated by Fiji. And we look forward to being able to continue to work with them on the programme.