27 May 2024

New Caledonia: Dozens of New Zealanders still stuck as riots rage

12:08 am on 27 May 2024
A man walks past a burnt vehicle at an independantist roadblock at Magenta Tour district in Noumea, France's Pacific territory of New Caledonia, on May 22, 2024. The Pacific territory of 270,000 people has been in turmoil since May 13, when violence erupted over French plans to impose new voting rules that would give tens of thousands of non-indigenous residents voting rights. The unrest has left six people dead, including two police, and hundreds injured. (Photo by Theo Rouby / AFP)

Cars and businesses have been torched in the riots. Photo: AFP / Theo Rouby

Forty-eight New Zealanders are still stuck in riot-torn New Caledonia as the fiery protests that have gripped the French territory stretch into their third week.

Seven people have died in the riots, which were sparked by a controversial electoral reform that some said would weaken the indigenous Kanaky vote.

Cars and businesses have been torched and shops looted, particularly in the capital, Nouméa.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said a Defence Force plane carrying 60 passengers from New Caledonia landed in Auckland just before 9pm on Sunday.

It followed a repatriation flight on Saturday that carried about 57 people.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said there were 48 further New Zealanders left in New Caledonia who wished to leave.

There were plans for another repatriation flight on Monday, he said.

Details of that flight were yet to be finalised.

"We continue to work with New Zealanders on the ground, French authorities and other countries that have asked for help," Peters said in a post on X.

The safety of New Zealanders in New Caledonia remained an "urgent priority", a ministry spokesperson said.

"New Zealand is deeply concerned about the political unrest in New Caledonia, and we call for calm and dialogue to prevail."

Seating on the repatriation flights had been prioritised based on two considerations, the spokesperson said: urgent needs and "the ability for passengers to safely travel to central pick-up points in Nouméa".

Almost all of the New Zealanders who wanted to depart New Caledonia had now relocated to Nouméa, the spokesperson said.

The most recent death in the French territory was on Friday evening, when a police officer fatally shot a 48-year-old man.

According to local media, the officer said he used his gun after he and a colleague were attacked by a group of about 15 people.

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