26 Apr 2024

French Pacific news in brief

7:50 pm on 26 April 2024

New Caledonia's pro-French party gets first Kanak President

Alcide Ponga delivers his maiden speech as President of the pro-France Rassemblement party on Saturday 20 April 2024

Alcide Ponga Photo: NC la 1ère

New Caledonia's historic pro-French party Rassemblement has elected its new President, Alcide Ponga.

Ponga is Lord Mayor of the small mining town of Kouaoua.

He is the first indigenous Kanak to hold the pro-French party's top job and was already interim President of Rassemblement since his predecessor, Thierry Santa, a former President of the local government, had resigned in December 2022, invoking personal motives.

At the party Congress held on Saturday 20 April in Mont Dore (Nouméa suburbs), Ponga was elected without any opponent for the party's top job.

He obtained an official score of 99.5 percent of the votes.

The 48-year-old stems from a Kanak family who has engaged in politics in the pro-French camp.

He is an elected member of the Northern Province Assembly, as well as the Congress of New Caledonia.

He also has a good knowledge of the nickel industry (he worked for French Société le Nickel company and is still an advisor to KNS-Koniambo President).

In his inaugural speech, he stressed he is a "man of dialogue" and called on all pro-French parties to form a united front to work together for New Caledonia to remain French.

New Caledonia's pro-French parties are currently facing divisions in a tense political climate and pressing issues such as the French Pacific entity's political future and an acute crisis in the nickel industry, with associated economic and social trickle-down effects.

Pacific Games Council delegation visits Tahiti ahead of 2027 Games

Tahiti Pacific Games 2027 media conference

Photo: French Polynesia Olympic Committee

Pacific Games Council President Vidhya Lakhan and his delegation (including executive director Andrew Minogue) have earlier this week concluded a three-day fact-finding mission in Tahiti, ahead of the 2027 Pacific Games to be held there.

Lakhan held meetings with French Polynesia's President Moetai Brotherson and Territorial Assembly Chairman Tony Géros.

"Such a big event cannot happen without the support of the government," Lakhan commented during a press conference late last week.

Last week also, a director was appointed to lead the Pacific Games 2027 organising committee, which will be in charge of the Games' logistics, including event planning, sponsoring, transportation and accommodation.

Other topics discussed included the number of athletes (a proposed maximum of 4,500) and a maximum of 24 sports disciplines.

Miss Trans France 2024: Tahiti sends two contestants

Kiara Aukara prepares for the Miss T France contest in Paris on 4 May 2024

Kiara Aukara prepares for the Miss T France contest in Paris on 4 May 2024 Photo: Polynésie la Première

Two contestants will represent French Polynesia at next week's Miss Trans France 2024 pageant.

O'omaka Gendron, 26, was elected Miss T (for Trans) Tahiti in October 2023.

The other contestant is Kiara Aukara, also 26, a permanent resident in mainland France who had to migrate there to complete her transition.

Both are preparing for the French national pageant, which will be held on 4 May 2024 in Paris.

And both say they intend to speak out on ways of improving the condition of trans-gender persons in French Polynesia, including the high cost of hormonal treatments there.

18 months jail sentence for assaulting Australian tourists in Papeete

Public Prosecutor Solène Belaouar

Solène Belaouar, Public Prosecutor in French Polynesia Photo: Supplied

The 23-year-old father regarded as the main aggressor of two Australian tourists, last month, in French Polynesia's capital Papeete, has been sentenced to eighteen months in prison, including nine months suspension.

He was prosecuted for inflicting grave injuries (broken ribs, teeth and nose) to two Australian tourists, both in their sixties, outside a restaurant in downtown Papeete on 23 March 2024.

He was part of a group including five others (all under 18 years old residing in the same area) who initially intended to rob the two Australian tourists.

One of those minors, aged 17, will appear before a Children's Court on 29 April.

Public Prosecutor Solène Belaouar said she believed one of the main reasons for this type of behaviour was "idleness".

Olympics surfing event in Teahupoo: bookings not really taking off

Tahiti's hospitality industry leaders are concerned that three months ahead of the 2024 Olympics surfing event in Teahupoo, bookings aren't taking off as much as they hoped.

In fact, figures projections at this stage are lower than last year's.

"For July 2024, at the moment, it is - 25 to - 35 percent compared to July 2023", French Polynesia's Hotel Association co-President Christophe Guardia told Polynésie la Première.

He said French Tour operators are not bothering to sell the Olympics 2024 Teahupoo surfing event destination because they think it will be overbooked anyway, which, Guardia said, is not the case.

Another factor could also be that room rates currently on the market for nearby hotels are unusually high-priced, according to travel agency Moana manager Nanihi Tchen-Fa.

Tourists watching the sea in French Polynesia

Photo: Supplied