By Jeremy Wilkinson
Six drug dogs and their handlers graduated from the police dog training centre in Trentham today and will soon be deployed for service in Suva, Fiji.
This is the first program of its kind for Fiji where dogs will be embedded at the border as well as in policing roles.
Controller for Customs New Zealand, Carolyn Tremain, says cooperation between the two countries will help limit drugs entering both countries.
"I think geographically Fiji sits right in the middle of the main supply corridors to New Zealand and Australia; transnational crime takes advantage of some of those factors," she says.
The Fiji dog training program expands on similar programs happening in the Cook Islands, Tonga and Samoa.
Brendon Gibson, project officer for the Fiji Detector Dog Project, says while the initial training is done in New Zealand, trainers will travel to Fiji to provide ongoing support.
"I think of them like a rugby team, they have their practice time before they have to perform at work."
Amit Ram, an officer for Fiji Customs, met his dog Blake two months ago and is excited to begin work as soon as kennels are built for the dogs at Suva airport.
"It's my first dog," he says, "We've never had a canine set up for customs in Fiji before."
The six black Labradors were chosen for their docile nature as well as their capable noses.
The two-year-old canines cost around $25,000 to train and will work for another six years before retiring.
Jeremy Wilkinson is a student journalist at Massey University.