1 Dec 2023

French Pacific news in brief

1:57 pm on 1 December 2023
Fiji Airways flies over New Caledonia

Photo: Fiji Airways

Fiji Airways launches inaugural flight to New Caledonia

Fiji's international carrier Fiji Airways has on Thursday launched its inaugural flight to New Caledonia, which will be followed by a regular new bi-weekly direct connection starting on 7 December.

The new Nadi-Nouméa direct connection is scheduled Mondays and Thursdays.

It comes under an existing Air Service Agreement (ASA) which allows Fiji Airways to provide services in the French Pacific (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis & Futuna), Fiji Airways said in a release.

Fiji Airways now flies directly to some 26 destinations around the world.

The the added connection to Fiji, as a regional hub, also brings Air Calédonie International (ACI) connecting flights opportunities to North America, Asia, as well as other Pacific Island countries.

Aboard the inaugural flight was Fiji's deputy prime minister and minister for tourism and civil aviation, Bill Gavoka, who was welcomed by New Caledonia's minister for tourism and New Caledonia Tourism (NCT) president Mickaël Forrest.

They were expected to sign a memorandum of understanding towards increased cooperation in future.

Noumea beach closed until further notice.

Photo: Facebook

Nouméa beaches to reopen

Beaches at New Caledonia's capital Nouméa will be reopened to the public starting 7 December, after a spate of shark attacks earlier this year.

The first beach to reopen will be the "Baie des Citrons" (Lemons Bay), as well as most other beaches in the area, including the famous Anse Vata, Nouméa's municipality has announced.

The main beaches have in the meantime been equipped with 200-meter-long anti-shark nets, funded by a special French grant of some US$550,000.

Outside those secured areas, users are advised to swim "at their own risk".

The latest deadly shark attack happened mid-February, 2023.

Since then, swimming was prohibited at those locations and several shark culling campaigns have been carried out.

However, following a complaint from local environmental ONG EPLP (Ensemble pour la Planète), a Nouméa court had ruled mid-October that the cull ordered by the Nouméa municipality had to cease, because of massive collateral damage to other marine species.

French Polynesian airport customs seize "ice" concealed in skateboards

French Polynesian airport customs have last week seized 1 kilogram of methamphetamines "ice" concealed in skateboards.

The Customs department said in a release they had been tipped of the suspicious parcel's arrival and then arrested the individual who came to collect it.

Previous parcels seized at Tahiti-Faa'a international airport contained the same drug concealed in such unlikely items as sound speakers, boxing punching balls and even Bibles, the same sources said.

Jail terms for arson on New Caledonia's domestic airport terminal

Four individuals have been sentenced earlier this week to jail terms after they had been found guilty of setting fire to a domestic airport on Lifou island (Loyalty group, North-east of New Caledonia's main island).

The four (two aged 20, one 24 and one 27) had been arrested following the nightly fire that partly destroyed one Air Calédonie agency building at the small airport terminal of Lifou on 4 October.

Public Prosecutor Yves Dupas said at the time that several burnt tyres were found amidst the airline's building charred remains and that on that basis, investigations pointed to a criminal motive.

The main suspect has been sentenced to three years jail (including two years suspended).

The other three will serve two years (including one suspended).

The Lifou airport fire took place in the midst of a spate of domestic airport blockades in September and October when a group of disgruntled users were protesting against what they termed excessive cost of domestic plane tickets.

At the time, this caused a massive cancellation of flights, affecting hundreds of passengers and major losses to domestic airline Air Calédonie.

Tahiti-based Gauguin items to travel to Australia, US

Some of Paul Gauguin's personal belongings will travel next year to the United States as part of an exhibition dedicated to the famous French painter.

The exhibition will first be held at Canberra's National Gallery of Australia (28 June to 7 October 2024) and will then travel to Houston's Museum of Fine Arts in the United States (from 3 November 2024 to 16 February 2025), the Museum of Tahiti said in a release.

The Museum has been approached by the organisers and will contribute with some of Gauguin's personal items such as wooden panels, sculpted spoons, and jewellery items.

The exhibition will include over 130 major works by Gauguin (paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics) coming from some 70 institutions and private collectors worldwide.