10 May 2024

French Pacific news in brief

5:31 pm on 10 May 2024
ENERCAL headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia.

ENERCAL headquarters in Nouméa, New Caledonia. Photo: ENERCAL

New Caledonia's power supply in 'critical situation'

New Caledonia's power supplier ENERCAL told the local Congress it is now facing a "critical situation".

Chairman Laurent Chatenay made the statement during a special audition before the local parliament on Tuesday this week.

"For the past ten years, (consumers) do not pay electricity at its real price, because New Caledonia has decided to freeze the price of electricity for consumers and take care of the difference", Enercal said in a release.

Chatenay urged the Congress and the local government to make quick decisions and to settle a debt ENERCAL claims reaches 18 billion French Pacific Francs (CFP, US$162.2 million) and for this year only, 600 million CFP (US$5.4m) are needed to avoid power disruptions.

ENERCAL also claims that under the current circumstances, the company could no longer be in a position to pay for next month's fuel delivery for its power plants and that the need to organise revolving power cuts was also a very real possibility.

A new memorial for NZ soldiers

Authorities in the small town of Boulouparis (South-West coast of the main island) commemorated Armistice Day, on 8 May, with a new memorial honouring NZ soldiers who were stationed in New Caledonia during World War 2.

The ceremony took place in presence of Nouméa-based New Zealand's Consul General Felicity Roxburgh, Boulouparis Mayor Pascal Vittori and French Commissioner (South) Grégory Lecru, as well as military and civilian officials and to the sounds of school children chanting the New Zealand, French and New Caledonia anthems.

"It's not a well-known story, but we wanted to valorise this so we can honour our common values and the strong connections between New Caledonia, New Zealand and France, and the sacrifices during World War 2, especially at this time when the region is facing geostrategic challenges", Roxburgh told local media Radio Rythme Bleu.

"New Zealanders were with us during the Second World War. And we wanted this to be remembered (...) and also allow those New Zealanders who would like to come here and remember", Vittori said.

The new monument, which represents a New Zealand soldier, with a plaque at the bottom, results from a joint initiative from the local Veterans Association and the New Zealand Consulate.

Further North on New Caledonia's West coast, in Bourail and the nearby village of Nessadiou, a New Zealand cemetery contains the graves of some 246 soldiers.

Thousands of New Zealand military personnel were based in New Caledonia during World War II, when Bourail was the Headquarters of the 3rd New Zealand Division.

New Zealand new memorial inaugurated in Boulouparis, New Caledonia, on 8 May 2024

New Zealand new memorial inaugurated in Boulouparis, New Caledonia, on 8 May 2024 - Photo rrb Photo: RRB

Minimum wage increase in French Polynesia

The minimum wage has increased in French Polynesia to a monthly 173,181.06 CFP (French Pacific Francs, 1,561.07 US dollars for 169 hours of work) or 1,024.74 CFP (9.2 US dollars) per hour, French Polynesia's Council of Ministers said in a release.

This is an increase of 2.38 percent compared to the previous rate and it came into force on 1 May.

Payslip and French Pacific Francs - Minimum wage increase in French Polynesia - Photo supplied

Payslip and French Pacific Francs - Minimum wage increase in French Polynesia. Photo: Supplied

Papeete to host conference on sex identity

French Polynesia will host the next UN 4th Human Rights conference on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) in 2026.

This was decided at the end of the 3rd conference which took place in Fiji (22-26 April 2024) with some 230 delegates representing 24 Asia-Pacific countries and territories to reflect on challenges faced by LGBTQ+ communities in the whole region.

The conference noted that in eight Pacific Islands Forum member countries, homosexuality is still legally considered as a crime.

The latest country to decriminalise homosexuality is the Cook Islands (2023).

French Polynesia's representatives at the Fiji meeting also confirmed their LGBTQ+ NGOs will join hands with their Cook Islands counterparts to co-organise later this year in Tahiti a "Talanoa Forum" dedicated to gender issues.

The event would be co-financed by the French government's "Pacific Fund for Economic, Social and Cultural Cooperation".

Fiji hosted the UN’s 4th Human Rights conference on sex identity SOGIESC last month.

Fiji hosted the UN’s 4th Human Rights conference on sex identity SOGIESC last month. Photo: Présidence de la Polynésie française

Vanuatu climate change minister in New Caledonia

Vanuatu's climate change minister Ralph Regenvanu was in New Caledonia earlier this week to meet with French authorities, including French High Commissioner Louis Lefranc, Nouméa-based French Ambassador to the Pacific Véronique Roger-Lacan, as well as French institutions officials from Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and French Research Institute for Development (IRD).

High on the agenda was the financing of the recently-announced "SMART" Vanuatu-New Caledonia cable, a world first which will not only carry high-speed data but will also be able to retrieve and feed-back information on tectonic, tsunami and volcanic activity in the New Hebrides trench, contributing to disaster risk monitoring and prevention.

France's AFD is announced to be a major contributor to the innovative project, locally dubbed "Tam-Tam".

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