NZ foreign minister Peters cancels New Caledonia visit as unrest erupts

Blazing cars in Nouméa as protests turn violent over French political plans for New Caledonia
Blazing cars in Nouméa as protests turn violent over French political plans for New Caledonia. Image: RNZ/@ncla1ere

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has cancelled his visit to New Caledonia due to pro-independence unrest throughout the French Pacific territory.

Peters and a delegation of other ministers was due to visit the capital Nouméa later this week.

Nouméa’s La Tontouta International Airport is expected to remain closed until at least 5pm today (local time).

The violence in Nouméa came as the National Assembly in Paris prepared to vote on a government-tabled constitutional amendment for New Caledonia.

On Monday demonstrations, marches and confrontations with security forces spread throughout New Caledonia with flashpoints in suburbs of Nouméa.

Police in New Caledonia during unrest.
Police in New Caledonia guard the telecommunications office of OPT in Nouméa. Image: RNZ/@ncla1ere

By the evening, several violent confrontations were still taking place between pro-independence militants and police.

Officials were working to set a new date for the visit, Peters said.

Aircalin flights cancelled
New Caledonian airline Aircalin has also cancelled a flight due to leave Auckland for Nouméa this afternoon.

Aircalin flight SB411 had been due to depart Auckland at 2pm.

The airline said rescheduling information would be posted on its website as soon as possible.

An alert issued by Aircalin stated flight SB410 from Nouméa, due to land in Auckland at 12.40pm today, had also been cancelled.

However, as of noon, Auckland International Airport’s arrivals board had no indication of any changes to the flight, or cancellations.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is monitoring the situation ahead of its next flight to Nouméa at 8.25am on Saturday, May 18.

A spokesperson for the airline said that flight was still expected to leave on schedule.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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