New Zealand Consulate-General Noumea, New Caledonia

New Zealand and the French Pacific

Minister McCully at Goro mine during July 2011 visit to New Caledonia

The New Zealand Consulate-General in Noumea was opened in October 1972, making it one of the earliest of New Zealand’s diplomatic missions in the Pacific region. It manages New Zealand’s political and economic relationship with the three French territories in the Pacific: New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna.

The relationship between New Zealand, France and its three Pacific territories covers a wide range of issues of mutual interest. New Zealand has welcomed France’s contribution in the wider Pacific region and, in particular, its contribution to the stability and development of New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna.

High-level political contact between New Zealand and New Caledonia and French Polynesia has expanded in recent years and there have been frequent visits and exchanges in the areas of trade, defence, social dialogue, education, tourism, culture and sports. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Murray McCully visited New Caledonia in July 2010 and in July 2012, accompained by a 50 strong delegation made up of members of parliament, business leaders, NGO representatives and media. The Minister of Defence Hon Dr Wayne mapp visited in April 2010.  The Minister of Veterans’ Affairs visited New Caledonia in August 2005 with a large delegation of WWII veterans to celebrate the end of the war in the Pacific.

A New Caledonian delegation, led by President Harold Martin, a French Polynesian delegation led by President Oscar Temaru and a Wallis and Futuna delegation led by Administrator Michel Jeanjean all travelled to New Zealand for the 42nd Pacific Islands Forum in September 2011. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé and Overseas Territories Minister Marie-Luce Penchard also attended the Pacific Islands Forum in Auckland in September 2011.

New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna are working, in cooperation with France, to become more integrated into the Pacific region. This has led to greater cooperation with New Zealand on regional issues. Both New Caledonia and French Polynesia are currently associate members of the Pacific Islands Forum (since 2006) and Wallis and Futuna holds observer status. They are also members of several regional institutions such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), which is based in New Caledonia.

The economic relationship between New Zealand and New Caledonia and French Polynesia has considerable potential for all parties. Two-way trade has been growing significantly and New Caledonia and French Polynesia are now respectively New Zealand’s second and third largest export destinations in the Pacific, with trade exceeding $200 million and $150 million per annum. The balance of trade is strongly in favour of New Zealand but there are a number of initiatives taking place whereby New Zealand expertise and services are being sought by the territories to assist them in their economic development. New Zealand’s key exports to the French territories include meat, dairy produce, a range of fresh and processed foodstuffs, timber, aluminium and building materials. New Caledonia and French Polynesia export mainly tropical fruit and vegetables, fish and pearls to New Zealand. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has a local representative in New Caledonia (Mr Richard Godin).

New Zealand has longstanding defence links with New Caledonia, and the New Zealand military cemetery in Bourail provides testament to the approximately 20,000 New Zealand soldiers who were stationed in New Caledonia at various times during the World War II. The New Zealand Defence Forces cooperate in a range of areas, including response to natural disasters, search and rescue operations and maritime surveillance. There are regular senior-level reciprocal defense visits, including a 2010 visit by Minister of Defence, the Hon Dr Wayne Mapp. Brigadier Mark Wheeler (Land Component Commander) attended the 2012 ANZAC Day ceremonies in New Caledonia and the HMNZ Canterbury visited Noumea in June 2012. General Jean-François, Commander French Armed Forces New Caledonia visited New Zealand in November 2011.

New Zealand offers short term training award scholarships for New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna by providing short-term training for young people in New Zealand. These awards are aimed at enhancing equitable social and economic development programmes in the territories and are focused towards disadvantaged young people. They cover English language training, technical courses and often include practical work attachments. There are currently twelve students from New Caledonia, and two students from French Polynesia  pursuing studies in New Zealand under the scheme for the 2012/2013 academic year.

New Zealand enjoys close educational, scientific, cultural, sporting exchanges with the French Pacific territories. The New Caledonian and French governments financed the New Caledonia Season in New Zealand during 2007, and New Zealand welcomed a New Caledonian delegation to its Youth Parliament in 2007.

In 2007 a group of Wallis and Futuna teachers visited New Zealand to investigate teaching methods at kohanga reo (Maori language pre-schools).

The University of New Caledonia has very good relations with its New Zealand counterpart universities, notably the University of Auckland with whom it has a cooperation agreement. Taupo and Noumea have a sister city relationship with regular delegation visits.

New Zealand has close indigenous cultural links with French Polynesia. The French Polynesian island of Raiatea is considered by tradition to be one of the main islands from where the original Maori people arrived in New Zealand and French Polynesia is considered to be the wellspring of Maori language. There is a close linguistic association with contemporary spoken Maori.

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