The French overseas minister, George Pau-Langevin, has addressed New Caledonia's Congress on the first day of her first trip to the territory as a minister.
She has highlighted the challenges of the decolonisation process as the Noumea Accord nears its end.
Following last May's territorial election, the new territorial Congress is tasked with organising an independence referendum by 2018.
Ms Pau-Langevin has also laid a wreath at a war memorial in Noumea.
Her visit involves talks with the main political parties and is part of preparations for a Paris meeting in about two months of the signatories of the Noumea Accord.
The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has identified as a priority the development of New Caledonia which in November will host the French president, Francois Hollande.