19 May 2024

New Caledonia unrest: Defence Force to bring New Zealanders home

11:04 am on 19 May 2024
Foreign Minister Winston Peters gives a speech to the New Zealand China Council amid debate over AUKUS.

Winston Peters. Photo: RNZ NICK MONRO

The Defence Force (NZDF) will fly into New Caledonia to bring home New Zealanders while commercial services are not operating.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand is waiting for the go-ahead from French authorities, based on safety.

"Ever since the security situation in New Caledonia deteriorated earlier this week, the safety of New Zealanders there has been an urgent priority for us," Peters wrote on X (formerly Twitter).

"NZ authorities have now completed preparations for flights using NZDF aircraft to bring home New Zealanders in New Caledonia while commercial services are not operating.

"We are ready to fly, and await approval from French authorities as to when our flights are safe to proceed."

Nouméa descended into chaos on Monday, with armed clashes between indigenous Kanak pro-independence protesters and security forces.

Peters urged any Kiwis in New Caledonia not already registered with SafeTravel to do so.

"Those already registered should update their details if their circumstances change."

The unrest was sparked by anger at a proposed new law that would allow French residents who have lived there for more than 10 years to vote - which some say will weaken the Kanak vote.

On Friday, New Zealanders stuck in New Caledonia's capital, Nouméa, told RNZ they felt abandoned by their own country, having received little help from the government.

Also on Friday, Air New Zealand confirmed it was forced to cancel its upcoming flights between Nouméa and Auckland on Saturday and Monday, with the airport in Nouméa closed until at least Tuesday.

There are currently 242 New Zealanders registered on SafeTravel as being in New Caledonia.

In a post on social media platform X, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said the Australian government was "working with authorities in France and New Caledonia, and like-minded partners including New Zealand, to assess options for Australians to safely depart."

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