French military carrier A-400M now to fly to New Caledonia every second month
French military carrier plane Airbus A-400M, based in Orléans (France), will now fly routinely to New Caledonia every second month, Nouméa military air base 186 commander, Colonel Mathieu Rigg, told local media this week.
The huge transporter is back this week in order to take part to another exercise, dubbed "Mhanuu" (in Poum, North-west of the main island of Grande Terre).
The air force officer said this was also part of France's Indo-Pacific strategy, which implies an increased and more visible presence in the Pacific region.
The Airbus A-400M, nicknamed "Atlas", has a transport capacity of some 37 tonnes, over 115 passengers with their package, 66 stretchers and a medical team of 25.
Travel to New Caledonia may involve support to populations, extending to Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia, but also, when required, assistance to neighbouring Pacific island states.
In December, New Caledonia is also hosting a regional meeting of defence ministers, including France's Sébastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles.
New Caledonia to allow more internet service providers
The government of New Caledonia has this week started to work on a draft to open access to more Internet Service Providers (ISPs), in a move to break the quasi-monopoly of public Office des postes et des télécommunications (OPT).
Even though half a dozen local companies are offering alternatives to Internet consumers, they mostly rely on satellite-based solutions.
The government decision to open competition was based on a plan to improve coverage of the whole of New Caledonia and its outer islands, where Internet access and speed is sometimes poor, the government said in a release on Wednesday.
While allowing more providers, the aim was to also increase the choice for consumers, according to the coverage at their place of residence, including in the "dark zones", the same sources said, invoking the notion of "digital inclusion".
New Caledonia population statistics
New Caledonia's population official count currently stands at 268,000.
This is a slight decline compared to the trend of previous years, when the count was above the 270,000 mark, New Caledonia's statistical institute (ISEE) Director Olivier Fagnot told public broadcaster NC La 1ère.
The deficit, which has appeared over the past two years, was partly explained by the number of residents (27,000) who had permanently left the French Pacific territory, against those who had arrived (17,000) during the same period.
Commenting on the permanent departures since the last 2019 census, Fagnot said about a quarter of those were born in New Caledonia.
He said the next population census scheduled for September 2024 should provide more details on whether the existing trend persists.
French Polynesia health cannabis
French Polynesia's existing laws on cannabis therapeutic use have been scrapped this week by the Territorial Assembly.
The laws had been in force since earlier this year, under a previous government, local Radio 1 reports.
But the new government, which came to power after the May 2023 elections, said those laws were "too complicated" and quasi-impossible to implement.
A new, revised text is now in the pipeline to legalise the import of cannabis and related substances, as part of a longer-term plan to develop local production, including the cultivation of hemp.
It has been announced it will be tabled in January 2024.
Earlier this month, French Polynesia's pro-independence President Moetai Brotherson said his government was preparing a plan and related legal instruments to gradually legalise the import of cannabis and related substances, as part of a longer-term scheme to develop local production, including the cultivation of hemp.
Brotherson said the first step will be to legalise the import of cannabis and related substances, first for therapeutic purposes and later possibly for recreational use.