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Map of New Caledonia

Map of New Caledonia.
flag of New Caledonia.

New Caledonia

Key Facts


Official Name: New Caledonia
Land Area: 19,103 sq km
Population: 245,580 (August 2009 census)
Capital City: Nouméa
Religion: Catholic, Protestant, Muslim
Language: French; 33 Melanesian languages also exist, although some are rarely spoken
Currency: French Pacific Franc (CFP or XPF)
Exchange Rate: XPF 73.44= NZ$1 (June 2012)
EEZ: 1.45 million sq km


Political system: The 1998 Nouméa Accord defined New Caledonia as an “Overseas Country” of France.  Since 1999, New Caledonia has had enhanced self-governing status within the French Constitution. The terms “collectivité territoriale” (territorial collectivity) or “collectivité française du Pacifique” (French Pacific collectivity) are accepted.

National government: Since 1999 New Caledonia's Government has consisted of an 11-member executive (Ministerial Cabinet) responsible to the 54-seat Congress of New Caledonia.  The government is elected by Congress on a proportional ballot from party lists, and this ensures that it comprises more than one political party, under the system of “collegial government” mandated by the Nouméa Accord. The President is elected by majority vote of all government members.

National legislature: The Congress of New Caledonia comprises representatives from the three provincial assemblies (15 from Northern Province, 32 from Southern Province and 7 from Loyalty Islands).  Members of the provincial assemblies are elected for terms of five years. Voting rights are restricted for elections during the remainder of the Nouméa Accord term (to 2018) to thoseresident in New Caledonia for 10 years prior to the signing of the Nouméa Accord in 1998, and their descendants.

French State responsibility: Political responsibility for New Caledonia in France lies with the Minister for Overseas Territories and the Minister responsible for Overseas France. High Commissioner Jean-Jacques Brot represents the French Government in New Caledonia.



Source: Overview of the New Caledonian Economy for 2011, published by the Institut d’émission d’outre mer (IEOM) in June 2012

GDP (2010): XPF 812 billion

GDP breakdown (2010) %
Market sector services 35.7%
Non market sector services 23.1%
Agriculture 1.3%
Nickel 8.4%
Other industries 7.9%
Construction 10.3%
Commerce 13.2%

GDP per capita (2010): XPF 3.3 million
Real GDP growth 2010): 3.7%

Exports (FOB)(2011): XPF 122 billlion (NZ$1.6 billion approx)
Imports (CIF) (2011): XPF 317 billion (NZ$4.3 billion approx)

Main Exports 2011 %
Nickel and nickel products 93%
Prawns 1%
Other 6%

Export destinations 2011 %
France 17%
Other EU Countries 11%
Japan 19%
Taiwan 11%
Korea 9%
Australia 13%
China 6%
Other Countries 14%


Main Imports 2011 %
Minerals 19%
Food, drinks, tobacco 12%
Textiles 2%
Automobile industry 10%
Energy 18%
Other 39%


Import origins 2011 %
France 22%
Other EU Countries 16%
China 10%
Singapore 15%
Australia 10%
New Zealand 4%
United States 4%
Japan 2%
Other countries 17%

Inflation (2011):

New Zealand Trade

NZ Exports ( FOB) Year ended December 2011: NZ$187 million

Main Exports NZ$m
Milk powder $13.1
Wood; sawn or chipped  $9.3
Clad iron or non-alloy steel (600mm width or more) $7.6
Chilled beef meat $7.5
Cane or beet sugar $7.4
Fresh milk and cream $6.7
Frozen beef $5.5
Sheep meat $5.4
Aircraft $3.7
Hot-rolled iron or non-alloy steel $3.5

NZ Imports (CIF) Year ended December 2011: NZ$2.7 million

Main Imports NZ$
Copper, waste and scrap  $0.7m
Ferrous waste and scrap $0.45m
Aluminium, waste and scrap $0.28m
Vegetables, fresh or chilled $0.23
Tricycles, scooters and toys $0.2
Printers, photocopiers and facsimile machines $0.19
Citrus fruit $0.21m
Chemical and allied industry residual products $0.06m
Crustaceans $0.05m
Parts for pulleys, cranes lifts $0.04m

Services Trade: Tourism, provision of services to the mining industry/education

Development Co-operation

New Zealand has a limited ODA presence in New Caledonia. An annual budget of around NZ$375,000 funds 10-12 short-term training awards for disadvantaged but promising young people and provides technical and practical training opportunities for them in New Zealand. Tourism is the most popular orientation for students and this sector is deemed by local authorities to be a priority. The New Zealand Consulate General in Noumea also administers an annual Head of Mission Fund of NZ$30,000 for provision to small scale development projects in the French Pacific Territories including New Caledonia.

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New Caledonia is an overseas “collectivity” of France, with a unique constitutional arrangement.  This is laid out in the Nouméa Accord, which was signed in 1998, and is the successor to the 1988 Matignon Accords which followed a period of civil unrest between pro-independence and loyalist factions (i.e. those who want New Caledonia to remain part of France).  The Nouméa Accord sets out a process for France to hand over responsibilities for non-regalian sectors (those other than defence, foreign policy, justice, public order, currency), with the possibility of a referendum on future political status during the period 2014 – 2018.  Local politics remain divided along pro-independence and pro-France lines.

New Caledonia has a relatively high GDP per capita but there are disparities in income distribution, both geographically and ethnically. Although New Caledonia has significant nickel resources, which account for 90% of its export earnings, it is still heavily reliant on financial transfers from France which account for approximately 25% of GDP.

As New Caledonia increasingly looks to be more integrated within the Pacific region it has sought New Zealand expertise and advice.  We enjoy a good bilateral relationship with regular exchanges at both official and Ministerial level across a wide range of sectors.  New Caledonia is New Zealand’s fourth largest export destination in the Pacific with exports totalling NZ$187 million for the year ended December 2011.

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The Kanaks, the indigenous Melanesian people of New Caledonia, originally settled New Caledonia over 6000 years ago.  These first settlers probably migrated from New Guinea and Vanuatu.  Polynesian groups added to the cultural diversity of New Caledonia by later settling in the Loyalty Islands. Kanak traditional society was based on subsistence agriculture and there are now 341 tribal groupings.  The latest 2009 Census did not collect data on ethnicity to ensure compliance with the French Constitution so current numbers of the Kanak population are difficult to quantify. It is estimated Kanaks represent around 45% of the population (over 100,000 people).
New Caledonia was "discovered" by Captain James Cook in 1774 and France annexed New Caledonia on 24 September 1853.  From 1863 it was officially designated a penal colony until this status was abolished by the first civil governor, Feuillet, in 1896.  By then over 20,000 convicts had been sent out to New Caledonia.  Further European settlement on the main island of Grande Terre saw the appropriation of Kanak land and fuelled the expansion of cattle farming.  Large-scale land alienations and social discontent with successive colonial administrations led to two major Kanak uprisings in 1878-9 and 1917.

Gold, chrome, cobalt and nickel were discovered and mined from the 1870s.  By the start of the twentieth century, New Caledonia was one of the world's major suppliers of nickel ore.  During the Second World War, New Caledonia's strategic importance made it the ideal location for the United States to set up its military infrastructure for the war against Japan in the South Pacific.  Some 20,000 New Zealand soldiers were stationed in New Caledonia during WWII.

In 1946 France made New Caledonia an "Overseas Territory of France" with limited autonomy.  The Territory was allocated two seats in the French National Assembly and one in the Senate.  After the war, France also introduced a series of reforms to improve Kanak rights, who faced significant discrimination from the European population.  Only in 1946 were Kanaks allowed to leave prescribed reservations and in 1951 they were granted voting rights and access to secondary education.

There has also been significant immigration to New Caledonia from French territory Wallis and Futuna, the local population in New Caledonia being approximately 20,000 (compared to a population of 13,500 in Wallis and Futuna itself).

Political Context: The Nouméa Accord

In response to the forces of decolonisation in Africa and increasing French migratory flows, the Kanak independence movement was launched in the 1970s.  The movement drew steady support from other Melanesian countries in the region and gradually gained momentum in the 1980s.  In 1984 the Kanak National Socialist Liberation Front (FLNKS) was founded as an umbrella organisation for the pro-independence parties, and later that year established a provisional independent government.  Between 1984-88 an estimated 80 people died in the violent confrontations between independentists and loyalists which followed.  The violence was eventually halted with the conclusion of the Matignon Accords on 26 June 1988 between the FLNKS, the loyalist RPCR, and the French Government.

The Matignon Accords provided for greater local autonomy (including provincial governments) and substantial aid designed to redress deep inequalities between the French and Kanak communities, while committing the Territory to a self-determination referendum ten years later. The Accords re-established peace in New Caledonia, but not before the assassination of FLNKS leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou and his deputy Yeiwene Yeiwene on 4 May 1989 by an independence extremist opposed to the Accords.

In 1998 the three Matignon Accords partners (the French State, RPCR and FLNKS) agreed on a new statute defining the Territory's institutions and its relations with France.  The agreement, termed the "Nouméa Accord", steered a middle course between the respective political aspirations of the RPCR and FLNKS, and avoided the need for a divisive yes-no referendum on independence.  It was signed on 5 May 1998 during a visit to New Caledonia by French Prime Minister Jospin, and approved by 72% of New Caledonians in a referendum on 8 November 1998.  The Accord was subsequently ratified by the French National Assembly and Senate.  As a result, New Caledonia is no longer a French Overseas Territory but has its own special status as an “Overseas Country of France” or “collectivité” within the French Constitution, with enhanced autonomy.  The country's statute also makes provision for New Caledonia eventually to change its name, flag and national anthem to express the territory’s unique cultural identity, notably its Kanak elements.

Between 1998 and 2018, the Accord commits France to transfer responsibility for areas of government (except the reserved sovereign powers of defence, justice, public order, currency and some areas of external affairs) to New Caledonia's government, congress and provincial assemblies.  Throughout the 20-year life of the Nouméa Accord, France and New Caledonia will share responsibility for mining regulations, higher education and research, broadcasting, air services, immigration, regional relations and some international relations.  Sometime between 2014 and 2019 a referendum or series of referenda are to be held to determine whether or not New Caledonia should acquire the reserved sovereign powers.

The contentious issue of the proper interpretation of New Caledonia's electoral corps under the Nouméa Accord was resolved in 2007 after changes to the French Constitution.  As a result, only people who can prove ten years of residence in New Caledonia at the time of the 1998 referendum on the Nouméa Accord, or who have one parent meeting that requirement, can vote in provincial (general) elections to elect representatives to the Provincial Assemblies and New Caledonian Congress, the first of which was held in 2009 with the second due in 2014


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Political Situation

In French presidential elections held in April 2012, Francois Hollande (Parti Socialiste) was elected President of France. In the French legislative elections held in June 2012 Sonia Lagarde and Philippe Gomes (both from the Caledonie Ensemble party) were elected as New Caledonia’s two Deputies to the French National Assembly. The result is significant as it is a move away from the Rassemblement–Union pour un Mouvement Populaire or R-UMP: the loyalist party and its antecedents had held at least one of the seats for the past 35 years.  The independentiste Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) candidate also performed very strongly in one of the electorates (the 2nd ward that includes the Northern and Island Provinces and Greater Noumea).

In the New Caledonian general election in May 2009,   Indépendentiste parties increased their representation in Congress by five seats, though the loyalists managed to retain the balance of power having agreed to work together through a “Republican Pact”. The election returned a Congress of 31 loyalists and 23 independentist members, with the 11-member government, headed by Calédonie Ensemble’s Philippe Gomes, drawn from Congress on a proportional basis. 

In February 2011, the Gomes government was brought down by the resignation of the FLNKS members of government over the issue of New Caledonia’s flag.  Congress elected a new government, headed by Avenir Ensemble’s Harold Martin on 3 March 2011. This government was in turn brought down by the immediate resignation of members of Calédonie Ensemble. The third (elected 17 March) and fourth (elected 1 April) Martin governments were also brought down following resignations of Calédonie Ensemble members.  The fifth Harold Martin government was elected on 10 June 2011. In July 2011, the constitutional law was amended to remove the mechanism which had led to successive governments being brought down by the resignation of government members. Under the new law, there is an 18-month stand-down period after a government has been brought down as the result of members resigning: during that period, members are unable to resign as a block.

The current government comprises members drawn from R-UMP, Avenir Ensemble and Calédonie Ensemble parties (7 in total); and the pro-independence FLNKS (4 members).

The FLNKS is the umbrella organisation for indépendentiste political parties.  Its two largest constituent parties are the Union Calédonienne (UC) and the Kanak Liberation Party (Palika).  A separate electoral coalition UNI-FLNKS comprises all members of the FLNKS with the exception of the Union Calédonienne. The indépendentistes are currently represented in Congress by 23 seats. Loyalist parties hold the remaining 31 seats of the total 54 seats. On 1 April 2011, Rock Wamytan was elected President of Congress, the first independentiste to hold this position. His election was overturned in July 2011 by the French Supreme Court on the grounds of procedural irregularity, but Wamytan was (re-)elected Congress President on 19 August 2011.

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Economic Situation

New Caledonia has one of the largest economies in the Pacific Island region, boasting a slightly higher GDP per capita than New Zealand, though there are significant disparities in income distribution. New Caledonia is currently New Zealand’s fourth ighest value export market in the Pacific.

Large financial transfers from the French Government (approximately NZ$2 billion per annum) help sustain a significant public sector. About half of this goes towards public service salaries, with the balance directed predominantly to health, education and special development projects, mostly in the Northern and Islands Provinces.

New Caledonia applies a number of trade barriers to protect local industry and employment.  A preferential tariff regime for the entry of EU-origin products remains.  New Caledonia consistently runs a trade deficit.
Nickel (a key ingredient for stainless steel production) accounts for over 90% of New Caledonia’s export earnings. Behind Russia and Canada, it is the world's third largest producer of nickel, with an estimated one quarter of the world's nickel reserves. Chrome and cobalt are also mined commercially, and deposits of iron, copper and gold have been found. 

With expansion of nickel mining in both the Southern and Northern Provinces (at Goro and Koniambo respectively) by a range of private and publicly-owned companies, the nickel industry will become even more important to New Caledonia's economy, significantly increasing its contribution to GDP, and generating further employment opportunities in the longer term.  However, a significant drop in global nickel prices and a fall in demand from the North Asian economies between 2007–2009 saw rising unemployment. This price volatility resulted in some recognition of a need for economic diversification as a buffer against economic uncertainty.

The combination of the two new nickel mining projects (the Vale mine at Goro and the Koniambo project are expected to enter into production by mid 2013) and budgetary support from the French state will nevertheless insulate New Caledonia in the medium to long term from the worst effects of the global financial crisis.  Although current economic growth is estimated well below earlier figures (3.7% in 2011 compared with a range of 5% - 7% in the years before the downturn) because of lower nickel returns, the rest of the economy has continued to perform quite well.  With the current return to higher prices for nickel, prospects are even better.

The construction sector accounts for roughly 10% of GDP, employing 10% of the salaried population in 2011.

 There are a couple of major construction projects beginning in the second part of the 2012: a new hospital worth US$350 million and a new hotel and golf-course worth US$220 million. Despite these projects, however, the construction industry is seeing a serious drop off in activity as other major projects reach completion: the two nickel plants, the airport upgrade on top of work completed ahead of the 2011 Pacific Games.



With the global downturn, the tourism industry deteriorated, due to reduced tourist arrivals and high costs in New Caledonia compared to other regional destinations. After the record figure of 109,933 tourists in 2002, numbers during 2009 and 2010 fell below the symbolic level  of 100,000. However in 2011, tourism numbers picked up, reaching 111,800 (thanks largely to an increase in visitors from metropolitan France). The cruise ship sector performs well, with 135 ships and 238,000 passengers visiting in 2011, double the numbers of five years previously.  An €80 million upgrade of the Tontouta airport is close to completion.



Agriculture officially employs only 5% of the population and makes up 1% of GDP, though it forms the basis of much of the indigenous population's subsistence economy.  Production in most areas is heavily subsidised and prices controlled.  Agricultural output is hampered by a number of factors including labour diversion to the more lucrative mining industry. 

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Foreign Relations

Since 1998 New Caledonia has been gradually expanding its international and regional links to reflect its evolving constitutional relationship with France.  Under the Nouméa Accord, New Caledonia can establish representation in the Pacific and the European Union, as well as conclude agreements in its areas of competence. The first representative in the region is to be formally established in the French Embassy in Wellington in 2012.

In 1999 New Caledonia became an observer of the Pacific Islands Forum, and achieved Associate membership in 2006. It is now seeking to become a full member of the Forum.

The Pacific's oldest regional organisation, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), is based in Nouméa. 


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Relations with New Zealand

Bilateral Linkages

The relationship between New Zealand and New Caledonia has been developing strongly in recent years and covers a wide range of issues of mutual interest. High-level political contact between New Zealand and New Caledonia has expanded, and there have been regular exchanges at officials’ level in the areas of trade, defence, security, customs, education, youth, tourism, labour, transport, conservation, culture and sports. 


New Caledonia is currently New Zealand's third largest bilateral trading partner in the Pacific. Total exports from New Zealand to New Caledonia for the year ended December 2011 were NZ$187 million.  New Caledonian exports to New Zealand are modest (NZ$2.7 million for the same period) because of the Territory's overwhelming reliance on mineral exports, and because local production costs are high. 


New Zealand tourist numbers to New Caledonia grew steadily to 2008 as a result of the opening of a New Caledonia Tourism Promotion Office in Auckland four years earlier. This tailed off from a peak of 11,931 New Zealand visitors in the year to July 2008 to around 7,594 in the year to December 2011, due to the economic downturn. Around 16,597 New Caledonians visited New Zealand, 94 less than in 2011. It is estimated that over 2,000 people travelled to New Zealand from New Caledonia for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Air Services

In November 1999 Air New Zealand increased its operations from one to two services a week.  This brought weekly passenger services between Nouméa and Auckland to four, including those of Aircalin.  The two airlines agreed to code-share their four flights from April 2002.  Aircalin operates a separate weekly airfreight flight.  Additional charter flights operate in peak periods as required.


The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) and the French Armed Forces in New Caledonia (FANC) cooperate in a range of areas, including response to natural disasters, search and rescue operations and maritime surveillance.  There are regular senior-level reciprocal defence visits, including over the last four years by the Minister of Defence (Hon Dr Wayne Mapp), New Zealand Chief of Defence Force, Chief of Air Staff, Maritime Commander and Deputy Chief of General Staff.  The Commander of the French Naval Forces in the Pacific, Rear Admiral Fred Maurice, visited in May 2008 for exchanges with senior New Zealand Defence and Foreign Affairs staff. Former FANC Commander General Olivier Tramond visited New Zealand in 2009 and 2010 and FANC Commander General Jean François Parlanti visited New Zealand in November 2011.

In 2006, then French Minister for Overseas France, François Baroin, signed a tripartite Maritime Surveillance and Cooperation Agreement during a visit to New Zealand.  Regular exercises are conducted between NZDF and FANC, particularly the Southern Cross Exercise which is held every two years, and ship visits in both directions are frequent.  In September 2008 the FANC played an active part in Proliferation Security Initiative Exercise Maru, held in Auckland, contributing a naval vessel and a medium-range patrol aircraft as well as personnel.  The FANC also participated alongside New Zealand in the April 2011 US-led Pacific Partnership exercise. ANZAC commemorations are well-attended by New Zealand, French and New Caledonian dignitaries, and the New Zealand war cemetery in Bourail is testament to approximately 20,000 New Zealand soldiers who were stationed in New Caledonia during the Second World War.  Of the 246 graves at the cemetery, 239 are New Zealanders’.


New Zealand is a popular destination for New Caledonian students wishing to learn English.  They are able to undertake up to three months of study visa-free. The University of New Caledonia has a cooperation agreement with the University of Auckland, which includes provision for student exchanges, and also has research links with Massey University.

The New Zealand Consulate-General in Nouméa manages a modest programme of short-term training awards. The programme provides short-term training in New Zealand with the objective of enhancing equitable social and economic development in the territories.  The awards target young people living in the regions and provinces, and offer practical skill-based courses that are not available locally (e.g. English language training, technical courses and/or work attachments).

These scholarships have been offered in New Caledonia since 1986 and over 210 New Caledonians have benefitted from the scheme.  13 scholarships were awarded to New Caledonian students in 2011.

Cultural and Business Linkages

Besides political, defence and trade relations, other links are fostered under the aegis of the New Zealand/France Cultural Agreement and the Friendship Fund.  There are also increasing sporting, scientific and official exchanges.  In June 2012, an MOU was signed in Noumea for closer cooperation and collaboration between the New Zealand National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the French consortium of 17 research and higher education agencies GOPS (Grande observatoire de l’environnement et de la Biodiversité Terrestre et Marine du Pacifique Sud) which includes the University of New Caledonia and the Noumea delegation of France’s Institute for Research and Development (IRD).

Taupo and Nouméa are sister cities.  In 2006, the New Caledonia Government, in association with France and New Zealand, announced a year-long “Season of New Caledonia” in New Zealand to promote understanding and foster greater cultural and sporting linkages between the two countries.

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Visits from New Zealand:

Visits to New Zealand:

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Travel Advice

The Ministry's travel website (www.safetravel.govt.nz) has comprehensive travel information including advice on the safety of travel to various countries. 

Enquiries may be directed to Consular Division at the following numbers: 

Phone: (04) 494 8500
Fax: (04) 494 850

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Diplomatic Representation

New Zealand is represented in New Caledonia by:        

New Zealand Consulate-General
4 Boulevard Vauban (BP 2219)
Nouméa, New Caledonia

Tel: (+687) 272 543
Fax: (+687) 271 740
email: nzcgnou@offratel.nc
Consul-General:  Linda Te Puni

New Caledonia is represented in New Zealand by:

The Embassy of France
 34-42 Manners Street
 (PO Box 11-343)

Tel:  (04) 384 2555
Fax: (04) 384 2577


Page last updated: Tuesday, 27 May 2014 10:04 NZST