Prime Minister Henry Puna said they look forward to making use of the regional maritime aerial surveillance planes to patrol the northern waters.
Earlier this year, Australia funded two King Air planes to provide 1400 hours of aerial fisheries surveillance to the 15 Forum Fisheries Agency island members, including the Cook Islands.
“Australia has gifted two planes to assist with maritime aerial surveillance of the whole of the Pacific and these planes are based in Apia and in Vanuatu. We look forward to making use of it in patrolling our northern waters,” Puna said.
According to latest media reports, the Pacific islands have become the centre of a drug trafficking boom and are now regarded as a new highway for narcotics transported from Latin America to Australia.
Cook Islands falls at the heart of this route and a private investigator says it makes our waters extremely vulnerable in the transport of drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
Former Australian detective Rod Henderson earlier said the northern group are particularly exposed to yacht traffic due to prevailing winds. Henderson said biosecurity in the group is sparse and traffickers have an easy run through the area.
Australia’s Foreign Affairs minister Marise Payne said the issue of such transnational crime and regional security have continued to surface with the focus mainly on drugs.
“Nobody wants to see the Pacific, our blue Pacific, subject and held ransom to those sorts of activities and we will be working very hard together to ensure that’s not the case,” Minister Payne, who visited the country this week, said.
Minister Payne said during the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Nauru last year, they signed on the Boe Declaration which she said has a very significant emphasis on regional security and on transnational crimes.
“In all of my conversations I have had around the region recently and last month when I was in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and the Cook Islands, the issues of transnational crime and regional security have continued to come up with the focus unfortunately on drugs,” she said.
“I think we can do a lot more work together and Australia with partners like the Cook Islands, we want to continue that conversation.”
Prime Minister Puna said Australia had been involved very much with the security efforts in the region.
He said the Foreign Affairs ministry is drafting the country’s national security policy and Australia through Minister Payne has given their support to help formulate those policies.
“As you are aware the patrol boat that is currently serving in overseeing our waters is provided by Australia, with a new one to be received in 2022. That’s a substantial gift of support to our security efforts,” Puna added.