A former New Caledonian president, Harold Martin, says the territory's economic situation is catastrophic and warns against moves towards independence.
Mr Martin said to appease the pro-independence camp, nothing is being said while the non-independence leaders mislead their followers by equating the referendum due in 2018 with independence.
In an interview with the territory's daily newspaper, he said a French envoy, who recently visited Noumea, was pushing a strategy which would see New Caledonia get what he called soft independence.
Mr Martin said the referendum should be brought forward to pave the way for negotiations on a follow-up accord to the Noumea Accord.
He claimed that otherwise people and investors would leave New Caledonia, and insecurity would grow so that in a few years some areas will become no-go zones.
Mr Martin said it was imperative that the government authorise the sale of low-level nickel next week as mining remained the main employer.
He said in some areas, the only alternative was growing cannabis.