New jailhouse to be built in Nouméa suburbs
A new prison will be built in the suburbs of Nouméa to bring long-awaited relief to the depleted and over-crowded existing Camp-Est, the French ministry of Justice has confirmed.
French minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti is also scheduled to travel to New Caledonia in February 2024 to provide further details, including a €498-million (Euro) financial assistance to erect the new building.
President of New Caledonia's Southern province Sonia Backès also confirmed both the ministerial visit and the French go-ahead for the construction of the jail, for which the Southern province has identified "the ideal piece of land".
"This will allow us to better manage this overpopulation issue," she said.
"Camp-Est was built to host four hundred persons and now we have six hundred inmates and another two hundred who should go to jail but cannot even be sent there," Backès told public broadcaster Nouvelle-Calédonie la 1ère.
The existing Camp-Est has for years been regarded as no longer fit to host its current population, and poor living conditions of those serving their sentence there have been condemned repeatedly by French and European human rights organisations.
Wallis and Futuna inter-island air service changes operator
The inter-island air service between Wallis and Futuna will change from Air Calédonie International (AirCalin) to another New Caledonia-based company, Air Loyauté, on January 2024 1st.
Since 1987, AirCalin has operated on a French-subsidised "public service delegation", for the sake of "territorial continuity" for these remote islands, and on the basis of two daily rotations, six days a week and more during school holiday periods.
But on several occasions, air services were severely disrupted and in early December, the latest disruptions entailed dozens of passengers left stranded for days on those two islands.
This was said to be due to a mix of technical issues and one of the pilots being sick for a prolonged period of time.
Starting January 1st, Air Loyauté pilots will take over for the next 5-year "delegation" period with the two Twin Otters owned by Wallis and Futuna.
The inter-island connection between Wallis and Futuna is French-subsidised for some US$6.3 million (55 percent from France and 45 percent from Wallis and Futuna's territorial assembly) over each five-year "public service delegation" period.
New planes in French Pacific skies
New planes have landed recently to join existing fleets in the French Pacific.
In New Caledonia, international carrier Air Calédonie International (dubbed AirCalin) has on Tuesday taken delivery of a brand new Airbus A320 Neo to serve its Pacific regional links.
The new aircraft, named "Nouméa", flew from Airbus' hangars in Toulouse to the Nouméa-La Tontouta international airport, via Dubai, Singapore and Brisbane.
It joins AirCalin's existing fleet of four other Airbus planes (two A320 and two A330).
The company currently flies to Australia (the Melbourne link was re-opened earlier in December), New Zealand, Fiji (since December 2023) and French Polynesia.
The company also announced that it aims to introduce a new Nouméa-Paris direct flight in 2026.
In French Polynesia, Air France has introduced a few days ago a new Airbus A350-900 which will start operating on the Papeete-Paris route (5 weekly flights via Los Angeles) from March 2024.
The inaugural flight landed on Tahiti-Faa'a international airport's tarmac on December 17th.
French army completes Vanuatu primary schools repairs
A platoon of New Caledonia-based French Armed Forces (FANC) has returned from Vanuatu in mid-December after completing a three-week stay dedicated to the repair and upgrade of three primary schools in the capital Port Vila.
The humanitarian mission, codenamed "operation CASTOR", takes place every year.
This year, from November 27th to December 15th, upon a request from Vanuatu's Ministry of Education, the FANC had sent a platoon of its Pacific Marine infantry regiment to work alongside the local paramilitary Vanuatu Mobile Force on the primary schools of Sainte Jeanne d'Arc, Ecole Publique and Swango, all in Port Vila.
FANC Commander, Brigadier General Yann Latil, travelled to Vanuatu to take part in the official re-opening of the revamped buildings.
He said the FANC "are regularly sharing their expertise with Pacific defence and security partners in terms of assistance to populations struck by natural disasters or maritime security".
Ice skating rink and artificial ski slope plans for Nouméa
A skate-park, offices, a shopping mall, a youth hostel, serviced apartments and a day nursery should be part of a new eight-storey building to be located in the city of Dumbéa (near the capital Nouméa).
"Technology has now evolved a lot in terms of energy efficiency. We now know how to build an energy efficient and zero-carbon ice skate rink," associates Johan Legrand and Christian Briault told local media.
The estimated cost of the project is over US$92 million, they said.
According to announcements made this week by the "Innov'XXL" consortium, works for this multi-faceted complex are scheduled to begin in September 2024 and are expected to be completed by Christmas 2026.