21 Dec 2022

Pacific news in brief for December 21

2:27 pm on 21 December 2022
A woman fills a car with petrol in Paris, February 2022.

Photo: AFP

Union's blockade at Noumea fuel storage sites

New Caledonia's truckers and construction workers union has set up a blockade of two Noumea fuel storage sites in protest at government inaction.

Four months after meeting government leaders, the union said calls for better living conditions, including lower fuel prices, have been ignored.

Some petrol stations are reported to have run out of fuel amid growing concern of more shortages.

However, the provision of fuel for aviation, ferries and emergency services is not being hampered.

The union's president Christophe Ramadi, told broadcaster La Premiere the rates for services have not changed in almost 30 years, although it has been shown that they are not viable.

More cases in Niue after end-of-year events

Covid-19 cases continue to pop up in Niue following community events.

The Niue government says infections are still being recorded following the Niue High School Graduation, Niue Power Corp gathering and the Niue High School Year 13 Ball.

Seventeen new cases of the virus have been recorded in the latest 24-hour reporting period.

There are 69 active cases.

Falling rates of covid in French Polynesia

The rates of Covid-19 in French Polynesia continues to fall, with a further 103 infections being counted in the five-day reporting period covering the weekend.

There are now 178 active cases, which is almost a halving in the past two weeks.

One person with Covid-19 is in hospital.

There have been repeated calls for people to update their vaccination status as only 25 percent of those over 60 have had a booster.

Last year when the territory was hit by an outbreak of the Delta variant, more than 600 people died, of whom more than 94 percent had not been vaccinated.

Samoan Supreme Court will decide fate of three rebel MPs

The Samoa Parliament will ask the Supreme Court to decide the fate of three Members of Parliament who resigned from the opposition Human Rights Protection Party last month.

The three MPs had been advised by the Speaker that they have been charged under the Electoral Act and the scenario is for them to go back to their constituencies for by-elections.

The members rejected the charges by the Speaker that their seats were now vacant under the law.

Tu'u'u Anasi'i Leota, Ale Vena Ale, and Mau'u Siaosi Pu'epu'emai will remain as members until the Court delivers its decision.

Under the Constitution, the seat of an MP becomes vacant where in certain circumstances they resign or withdraw from or changes their political party.

Tu'u'u and Ale both resigned from the HRPP saying they no longer had confidence in the party leadership, while Mau'u quit saying he was resigning at the wish of his constituents.

Dozens of new police officers for Tonga

Tonga's Police Force has significantly expanded its ranks with the graduation of 34 new constables.

It's part of an intensive recruitment drive implemented since 2019, to combat an increasing illicit drug trade in the Kingdom.

Over 100 police were recruited between 2019 and 2021 alone.

Police Commissioner Shane McLennan said the Kingdom has experienced one of its lowest crime rates, but anticipates an increase as the country emerges from Covid lockdown and border closures.

Christmas cargo for Tuamotu islands

A cargo boat will make its last rotation of the year from Tahiti to the Tuamotu islands, in the east of French Polynesia, in time for Christmas.

It holds around 400 tonnes of goods which includes presents, construction material and food.

The captain Michel Tehei told La Premiere keeping food safe is a priority.

"It will be a month before we will be able to return, therefore food is a priority. Then we will start loading construction material and all that."

Tinian projects get major funding boost

The US Senate has passed an act which earmarks $US191 million for three projects on the Northern Marianas island of Tinian.

The three projects include $92 million for fuel tanks with pipeline and hydrants, $58 million for the first phase of airfield development, and $41 million for a parking apron.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 also includes a section addressing the sharp decline in shark populations worldwide, by banning the commercial trade of shark fins within the United States.

The ban mirrors a Marianas law and that of several US states' prohibition on the sale, purchase, or possession of shark fins.

Pensioners in Samoa to get a rise

The ruling FAST Party government in Samoa has some welcome news for pensioners and those with disabilities in the First Supplementary Budget for 2022-2023, tabled by the Minister of Finance this week.

The Minister announced that the Old Age Pension Benefit will get an additional $150 tālā over the last quarter of the financial year, at $50 tālā a month.

The Disability Benefit will also be given an extra $50 tālā top-up for the months of April and May 2023.

The supplementary budget has now been assigned to the House Select Committee on Finance and will report back when Parliament sits again on January 17.

Airline gets new craft

French Polynesia's new airline Air Moana has received its first aircraft, which landed at Tahiti-Faa'a international airport in Papeete.

Its first flight is set for mid-February.

It will fly from Tahiti to Bora Bora, Raiatea, Rangiroa, Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and Moorea.

Director general of the company, Raitini Rey, told La Premiere his company will improve the aerial transport of the territory.