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Noumea, New Caledonia riots: Winston Peters’ MFAT in touch with 200 Kiwis in the country

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Foreign affairs teams are watching the unrest in New Caledonia by “the hour” and keeping in touch with Kiwis stuck in the country’s capital, Winston Peters says.

Four people have died and hundreds have been injured during rioting by pro-independence supporters over electoral changes.

French president Emmanuel Macron has declared a 12-day state of emergency and about 1200 police enforcements were due to arrive from France.

More than 200 New Zealanders have registered as being in the country and Foreign Minister Peters told Newstalk ZB his Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was in contact with those who “have engaged with us”.

“We’ve been watching things by the hour. We understand the airport may be open tomorrow and so marshalling them and keeping on talking to them each day is what we are doing,” he said on the Mike Hosking show.

New Zealand has upgraded its SafeTravel alert for parts of New Caledonia.

All commercial flights to and from the Noumea-La Tontouta international airport have been cancelled and many holiday-makers are stuck in Noumea.

Mike Lightfoot is one of those people. He arrived in Noumea in Monday and described the scenes in the city to RNZ.

Lightfoot said as he and his wife started to make their way to their hotel they saw protesters, some with machetes, but they weren’t too worried.

“It was very peaceful we thought at the time but as we got closer into town we could certainly see there was unrest.

“There were intersections on fire … as we came into the town itself there were the Gendarmerie in full gear … we thought this was getting serious.”

Lightfoot said his wife needed a doctor for a chest condition and as they were in the doctor’s surgery “we heard explosions and gunshots very close to us”.

“They were rioting right through town, the town was on fire. Fortunately, our taxi driver pulled down a side street, stopped for a second, got himself together. There were people running around our car and carrying on and he took off.

“We climbed up in through the suburbs and as we came down to try and get back to our hotel we came to a roundabout and they had the roundabout completely blocked off, there would have been, we estimate, around 150 of them there protesting, the whole roundabout was on fire, they had big blocks in the middle of the road.

At least four people were killed overnight in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. Photo / AP
At least four people were killed overnight in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. Photo / AP

“As we edged through, the smoke was so black we couldn’t really see the road. One of them whacked the car as we went through but yeah, it was pretty unsettling …”

His hotel, Chateau Royal, has asked people staying there not to step foot outside the complex and “they’ve asked us to be prepared, that we may need to evacuate”.

About 51 New Zealanders were staying at the hotel, he said.

Lightfoot said the airlines were keeping them informed.

“As soon as we are able to get to the airport they’ve [one airline] said that we are definitely on one of those planes. Air New Zealand at this point are planning to have a flight here on Saturday. If that goes ahead, they also have us listed on that flight to get us out.”

Supplies were a problem and staff were living on site for their own safety, he said.

– with RNZ

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