More New Zealanders to arrive home from riot-torn New Caledonia

9:56 pm on 23 May 2024
A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules arrives in Port Moresby, 30 November 2021.

A New Zealand Defence Force plane carried passengers on to Auckland after they were flown out of New Caledonia on Wednesday. Photo: NZDF

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the government has received approval from France to bring another group of New Zealanders home from riot-torn Nouméa on Friday.

Peters said the flight would leave Auckland for Nouméa on Friday morning and return home that afternoon.

Consular officials would provide stranded New Zealanders with the details, he said.

It follows the safe return of 50 New Zealanders to Auckland on Wednesday - the second such group flying from the country - amid reports of explosions, fireworks and gunfire from the political unrest.

The Defence Force flight from Brisbane arrived at 2am after they were flown out of the French territory on board a French-operated flight.

No flights on Thursday

There were no rescue flights out of New Caledonia on Thursday after France declined applications amid Emmanuel Macron's visit there.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade emailed the remaining New Zealanders on Wednesday evening, saying it had been advised further flights had not been approved to run.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters later confirmed there would be no rescue flights out of New Caledonia on Thursday.

The coalition said it was frustrated by Thursday's delay, with Winston Peters saying the government continued to urgently engage with its Paris and counterparts to approve flights home as rapidly as possible.

Speaking to reporters at Parliament in the afternoon, Peters said New Zealand had conveyed its frustrations to France.

"The foreign minister, the diplomatic posts, everything we could possibly do in concert with Australia we've done."

He was asked if the delays related to Macron's visit.

"That may be a possibility but there may be other security issues and I can't speak about it.

"Everything we can possibly do, we've done. We're all set to go but there are some decisions which are out of our control. We just have to be patient and wait. We understand New Zealanders' frustration, we're frustrated ourselves."

He said New Zealand was ready to undertake further flights as soon as approval was granted.

On social media site X, Peters also said bringing the rest of the New Zealanders stranded in New Caledonia home remained an urgent priority.

"Unfortunately, we have not received approvals from France yet for any flights today. We appreciate this will be frustrating for New Zealanders waiting to come home. We share this frustration.

"We remain ready to undertake further flights, and our aim remains to get these New Zealanders home as soon as possible.

"We continue to engage urgently with the French Government in Wellington, Nouméa and Paris asking that it approves the next flights home as rapidly as possible."

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, speaking to reporters in Lower Hutt, also said it was frustrating.

"Each day we're talking with the French authorities to make sure we get permissions in place, today we haven't been able to achieve that but obviously our focus is to continue to work hard to make that happen.

"It is frustrating, we want to make sure Kiwis who want to come home can come home."

He said there were "a number of reasons" the French had not granted permission.

"Those are decisions for the French ... we are doing everything that we can."

Peters said the consular team was focused on moving Kiwis in other parts of New Caledonia to Nouméa so they were ready to fly home when it was possible.

MFAT said there were still about 205 New Zealanders still wanting to leave Nouméa.

New Zealand traveller in New Caledonia Shula Guse, from Canterbury, said it had been hard to get information on the ground without a good knowledge of French, so she was relying on New Zealand media to find out what was going on.

She wanted the New Zealand consulate to communicate more with stranded travellers, saying the phone number was going unanswered and she was in the dark about evacuation flights or which supermarkets and pharmacies were open.

"Other people who are stuck here I think are just as much in the dark as we are. Our only information is coming via Radio New Zealand because we don't speak French very well, so we can't understand the news locally."

Guse said the travellers she was with were ages 64 to 82, and only had enough medication to last until Sunday.

Pacific Islands Forum chair and Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown told Morning Report the period of political unrest was "deeply concerning" for the forum family.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown

Mark Brown. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Lydia Lewis

Brown said he offered his condolences to those affected, and to those who had lost their lives.

He called for peace and order to prevail so "genuine dialogue" could be engaged in.

Brown said all members of the Pacific Islands Forum were former colonies so he could understand the desire for independence.

But there needed to be a proper sit down face-to-face conversation.

Violence should be the last resort, he said.

Brown said he remained open to discussions with the president of New Caledonia, to discuss issues further and reassure support.

It was not a new issue - but one difficult to go away without proper dialogue and discussion, he said.

The first repatriation flight landed at Auckland International Airport on Tuesday night.

Chris and Mike Riley were arriving back from New Caledonia from what was meant to be a week-long trip.

Chris Riley said they heard lots of explosions, fireworks and gunfire from where they were.

"We were in a lovely place actually, it was quite peaceful, but we were trapped because we couldn't get through because of all the troubles that were there," she said.

Mike Riley said they were both relieved to be home.

"We're not in a hurry to go anywhere apart from Kerikeri," he said.

Carl was in a tourist area of New Caledonia for the past two weeks, which he said was sheltered from the riots.

He said it felt great to get on the Defence Force flight.

"It was a bit of a different type of trip back to New Zealand, but it was fun."

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