Home » New Caledonia: MFAT working with Australia to fly travellers stranded by civil unrest

New Caledonia: MFAT working with Australia to fly travellers stranded by civil unrest

Australian Defence Force has said it is readying flights to assist the departure of travellers trapped in New Caledonia by civil unrest. Photo / Emma Schwenke, Australian Defence Force

As Noumea’s airports remain closed and New Caledonia civil unrest extends to a seventh day, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is exploring possible options to bring stranded Kiwis home.

This includes possibly using New Zealand and Australian Defence Force aircraft preparing to fly to the island.

On Sunday evening the Ministry updated its Safe Travel advice, saying that airforce repatriation flights were ready to depart for New Caledonia, pending green light from France.

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

The Ministry was aware of 250 New Zealanders on New Caledonia, registered with the Safe Travel website.

This comes as Australia also said it was also waiting for approval to send Defence Force aircraft to bring citizens home, while commercial flights were suspended.

Last night Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that aircraft were on standby to fly to the aid of trapped expats and travellers.

French authorities advise the situation on the ground is preventing flights. We continue to pursue approvals,” she said.

There are thought to be around 300 Australians trapped in New Caledonia.

A spokesperson for the NZ Ministry told the Herald it was working with the ADF to uplift international visitors who had been left without a way off the islands.

“New Zealand is exploring possible options, including working alongside Australia and other partners on their planning, to help get New Zealanders in New Caledonia home.”

However no defence force flights had been confirmed yet.

NEW-CALEDONIA

The ability for any “assisted departure flights” is still subject to safe access to La Tontouta International Airport which is currently closed to commercial aircraft.

French Police were reportedly working to break through road barricades which were blocking roads through Noumea and access to the airstrip.

MFAT’s Safe travel advice is for New Zealanders to register their details and intended dates of departure with their website, in order to keep updated with options for assisted departure.

“The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will be in contact when further information is available.”

Defence Minister Judith Collins told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been working with the French government to approve any repatriation flights to New Caledonia.

“Stay in your own home, don’t go out unnecessarily and understand that help is coming,” said Collins.

This photo provided Friday May 17, 2024 by the French Army shows security force embarking a plane to New Caledonia, Thursday, May 16, 2024 at the Istres military base, southern France. The number of violent incidents reported in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia fell slightly on Friday, a day after France imposed a state of emergency as 1,000 promised reinforcements for security services were deployed with increased powers to quell unrest in the archipelago that has long sought independence. (Etat Major des Armees via AP)
This photo provided Friday May 17, 2024 by the French Army shows security force embarking a plane to New Caledonia, Thursday, May 16, 2024 at the Istres military base, southern France. The number of violent incidents reported in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia fell slightly on Friday, a day after France imposed a state of emergency as 1,000 promised reinforcements for security services were deployed with increased powers to quell unrest in the archipelago that has long sought independence. (Etat Major des Armees via AP)

Why is New Caledonia seeing violent riots?

The French overseas territory was set to vote on constitutional reform last Tuesday, with a bill to allow more French residents and arrivals living on the islands for over 10 years electoral rights in New Caledonia.

Protestors and pro-independence movements said this would dilute the voice of locals and indigenous New Caledonians Demonstrated against the bill which had been passed in the French metropole 17,000km away. The general strike turned deadly last week and additional 1000 police were flown in from France to support authorities in Noumea.

France has said La Tontouta International Airport will not open to the public before at least 9am tomorrow morning. However there were still barriers to restarting scheduled commercial flights.

On Wednesday CCI New Caledonia said that due to “major disruption” flights into La Tontouta would be paused “passengers are encouraged to contact their airline directly.”