17 May 2024

All options being considered to help New Zealanders in New Caledonia - Winston Peters

9:12 am on 17 May 2024
Another looted supermarket in Nouméa’s Kenu-In neighbourhood.

A looted supermarket in Nouméa's Kenu-In neighbourhood. Photo: NC la 1ère

Dwindling food supplies and the inability to get to the airport are the main concerns for two New Zealanders stranded in New Caledonia.

Five people are now dead after officials confirmed the death of a second police officer. Although RNZ Pacific understands it was an accidental killing which occurred as troops were preparing to leave the barracks.

France has said it would send an additional 1000 security personnel to the French territory where deadly riots erupted in protest of voting reforms.

A state of emergency was declared on the island, at least 10 people were under house arrest, and TikTok has been banned.

RNZ Pacific said there were food and fuel shortages as well as problems accessing medications and healthcare services.

Biggest concerns

Wellington researcher Barbara Graham had been in Nouméa for five weeks.

She said many New Zealanders were booked on a flight due to leave Saturday, although they were not convinced it would be able to depart, or that they could get to the airport.

"My understanding is that its quite unlikely that that flight would go. So we're all looking into other options, later flights.

"The main issue really is not the flight...it's the road to the airport that is and I understand it still impassable because of the danger there, the roadblocks and the violent groups of people."

Airlines were looking to taking bigger planes to get more people out and were working with the airport to ensure the ground crew were also available, Graham said.

She said she was reasonably separate from the violence but had seen the devastation when moving accommodation.

Wellingtonian Emma Royland was staying at the University of New Caledonia and hoped to wait out the civil unrest, if she could procure enough food.

"Ideally the university will step in to take care of us, ideally although we must admit that the university themselves are also under a lot of hardship and they also will be having difficulties sourcing the food."

The couple of hundred students at the university were provided with instant noodles, chips and biscuits, Royland said.

She went into town to try and find food but there were shortages and long queues, she said.

"It probably is one of my biggest concerns is actually being able to get into the city, as I stand here I can see the smoke obscuring the city from last nights riots and it is a very big concern of being able to get that food, that would be the only reason that I would have to leave New Caledonia."

Government considering all options

The Government was considering all possibilities to help New Zealanders stranded in New Caledonia.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters told Morning Report it was a fluid and alarming situation and government officials had been working on an "hourly basis" to see what could be done to help New Zealanders wanting to leave.

That included the Airforce or using a commercial airline.

"The New Zealand Government is doing all it can to ensure that if we can help, we will."

More than 200 New Zealanders were registered as being in the country, his advice to them was to stay in place and keep in contact.

Peters was in Tuvalu, he cancelled his stop in New Caledonia due to the civil unrest.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade representatives had been in contact with Nouméa and Paris but it was not for New Zealand to intervene in the situation, Peters said.

He said he, and other Pacific leaders, wanted a peaceful resolution now.

"This is time now for caution and wisdom and to ensure that the alarming circumstances that could potentially develop from here don't get totally out of hand.

"The arguments and debates and the criticisms can come later, but right here right now it's people and their security that we're concerned about."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs