26 Apr 2024

Pacific news in brief for April 26

2:56 pm on 26 April 2024
Generic cocaine, drugs

Photo: AFP

Papua New Guinea - cocaine

Australian law enforcement authorities have intercepted cargo pallets containing 289kgs of cocaine on a flight from Papua New Guinea.

The National newspaper reports the cargo had been flagged as suspicious.

The cocaine was seized and replaced with a harmless substance before police allowed the pallets to be collected, upon which the suspect was arrested.

The cocaine has an estimated street value of AU$94 million.

Northern Mariana Islands - flights

Hong Kong Airlines are resuming flights to Saipan after a five-year hiatus caused by the covid-19 pandemic.

The first three weeks' worth of flights have already sold out.

292 passengers will be touching down in the Northen Marianas capital on April 29.

The Marianas Variety reported it will be a twice-weekly service, with discussions underway to increase flight frequency due to demand.

Christopher Concepcion from the Marianas Visitors Authority said Saipan is the airline's first foray into the Pacific and opens the door for the Asian tourist market.

He said pre-covid demand from this route was 'pretty good'.

Guam - solar

Guam has secured US$62.4 million to provide renewable energy solutions to low-income households.

The Pacific Daily News reported the funding is coming from the US Environmental Protection Agency's 'Solar for All' programme.

Governer Lou Leon Guerrero highlighted the programme's focus on homeowners facing financial barriers to solar energy adoption.

Through energy audits, weatherization support and accessible loans, households can expect reductions in electricity bills by up to 20 per cent.

The Guam Energy Office spearheaded the application process, expecting funds by September.

Tonga - tobacco smuggling

An Auckland businessman has landed a jail sentence after smuggling six tonnes of tobacco into New Zealand from Tonga.

Mosese Vakapuna, 60, has been sentenced to 28 months in jail.

He faced two-dozen charges related to defrauding the revenue of customs, after an investigation revealed more than NZ$10 million in tax evasion.

The investigation began in October 2022 when close to 600kgs of loose tobacco, or 'Tongan Chop', was discovered amongst items such as taro and kava.

Customs identified 23 imports over 21 months.

While it is not illegal to import tobacco in commercial quantities, Investigations Manager Dominic Adams said businesses and individuals need to declare it correctly, have the relevant import permits, and are liable to pay the taxes.

Kaniva Tonga reported the tobacco was intended to be sold to Pasifika communities in New Zealand.

Vanuatu - prisoners

Vanuatu's Internal Affairs Minister has revealed many Ni-Vanuatu citizens are in Australian prisons for offences, varying from "very serious" crimes to minor offences.

Johnny Koanapo told the media a lawyer - who is offering "pro bono" or free legal services to Ni-Vanuatu workers - told him about the issue on his recent trip there.

The lawyer told him he's handling around 30 cases.

The Daily Post reports the Minister admitting that labour mobility workers are not briefed property when they leave Vanuatu.

He said some offences may be deemed okay in Vanuatu but considered crimes under Australian law.

New Caledonia - laboratory

New Zealand has invested NZ$28 million towards a laboratory in Noumea to study the effects of climate change on tuna populations.

Tuna holds significant value in the Pacific region, supporting over 26,000 jobs and generating nearly US$1 billion in export revenue annually.

Operated by the SPC, the Genomics and Otolith Laboratory will conduct analytical work.

Jenny Marcroft, Parliamentary under-secretary to the Minister for oceans and fisheries, said understanding how tuna populations react to climate change will allow for more effective fisheries management.

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