) is a dependent overseas territory of France lying in the western Pacific Ocean, in the Coral Sea, to the east of Australia and west of Vanuatu. The territory consists of the main island of Grand Terre, the archipelago of the Loyalty Islands (Iles Loyaute
), and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls.
New Caledonia offers stunning beaches, mountaintop fondue in chalets, camping, amazing snorkeling and diving, and fabulous French food.Regions
New Caledonia includes: Grand Terre - The main island. It is one of the largest islands in the Pacific. The barrier reef lying off New Caledonia is second only to the Great Barrier reef in size.
The main tourist destinations are:ÃŽle de Pins - Was one of the few places in the Pacific with trees tall and sturdy enough to provide replacement masts for ships.Loyalty Islands (Iles Loyaute)Cities
Noumea is the capital city.HiÃ©ngÃ¨ne, on the Grande TerreBourail is the farmer town.
Ports and harborsMueoThioPort BousieUnderstand
The people of New Caledonia are split into three major groups:the native KanaksFrench citizens working in Noumeadescendants of French prisoners and settlers
There is a general move towards independence in New Caledonia and it was decided in the NoumÃ©a Accord that the territorial Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on independence after 2014, at a time of its choosing.History
Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was in the French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864.
The islands have been an overseas territory of France since 1956.
The 1988 Matignon Accords grant substantial autonomy to the islands; formerly under French law. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s seems to have dissipated. A referendum on independence was held in 1998 but did not pass; a new referendum is scheduled for 2014.
New Caledonia has a national holiday for Bastille Day on 14 July (1789)Climate
New Caledonia has a semi-tropical climate, modified by southeast trade winds. It is often hot and humid. The islands are subject to tropical cyclones, most frequent from November to March. During winter (April to August) the daytime temperature is around 22 degrees. The water may still be warm, but it often feels too cool to really want to go swimming.Geography
The main island of New Caledonia is one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean and its terrain consist of coastal plains with interior mountains. The highest point is Mont Panie (1,628 m).
Grand Terre is rich in minerals, and is an important source of many ores. There is a mountainous interior green with subtropial foliage. The outlying islands are coral based, and have stunning white sand, and sport palm trees. Economy
New Caledonia has about 25% of the world's known nickel resources. In recent years, the economy has suffered because of depressed international demand for nickel, the principal source of export earnings. Only a small amount of the land is suitable for cultivation, and food accounts for about 20% of imports. In addition to nickel, the substantial financial support from France and tourism are keys to the health of the economy. The situation in 1998 was clouded by the spillover of financial problems in East Asia and by lower prices for nickel. Nickel prices jumped in 1999-2000, and large additions were made to capacity. Strikes in the building industry in 2001, which lasted four months, adversely affected many other sectors of the economy. French Government interests in the New Caledonian nickel industry are being transferred to local ownership.Get in
Air France provides direct flights from Paris. Regular flights are available from Tokyo, as New Caledonia is very popular with the Japanese. There are also flights from various Pacific nations, New Zealand, Australia, and SouthEast Asia. However, there aren't many flights overall, so beware of availability. There is little or no competition on routes, so be very wary of high flight prices.By boat
Noumea is a popular port of call for people sailing around the Pacific. Though most dare not sail during cyclone season.See
Jean Marie Tjibaou Center, a gift from the French Government. The architect was Renzo Piano, an Italian architect.Botanical gardenWandering along the waterfront in Noumea - Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata.Do
Snorkeling, diving, windsurfing*ÃŽlot Canard just outside the Anse Vata is a good place for beginners*Aguille de Prony is an amazing underwater structure in the Prony bay south of Noumearelaxing, tanning, and generally doing nothing*Baie des Citrons and the Anse Vata are common beaches at the Noumea peninsula*ÃŽlot Maitre has a resort. This can be reached by taxi boat from the Anse Vata, and by boat from the Baie de Mouselle*Numerous other tourist resorts can be found throughout the Grande Terre and ÃŽle des Pinseating French and local cuisinehiking, camping*Parc RiviÃ¨re Bleu in the YatÃ© region south of Noumea*Joining a hiking group is generally a good idea, since you then can really enjoy the great scenery without fear of getting lost, or having to stick with conventional tourist spots....Talk
The official language is French, and it is difficult to find English speakers
outside of Noumea. In Noumea, French, English, and Japanese are widely spoken at hotels, restaurants, and shops. To enjoy a place like this, you should really endeavour to learn some French.Buy
The cartoon series La Brousse en Folie
and Le Sentier Des Hommes
by Bernard Berger will give you an insight in the local culture and tradition. The comics are written in French, the former imitating the local accent and grammar (or lack thereof)
Other than that, plenty of conventional souvenirs shops may be found throughout Noumea.Costs
New Caledonia is very expensive
, since much of the food needs to be imported. There is no culture of bargaining either and attempting such might cause offence.Eat
Bougna, a traditional meal among the native Melanesians, which consists of some form of meat, pork, chicken, fruitbat, crab, etc, along with roots such as yams and sweet potatoes. This is wrapped in banana leaves and cooked under hot rocks heated in a fire.Coconut crabsFruitbatsAll fruits here seem to taste very good
Buy food from local markets, which are common to almost every town.
Restaurants are expensive. You can eat quite well for about 10EUR at a couple of joints opposite the library in town. For travellers on a budget, you'll need to observe what the Kanaks do for the best deals.Drink
You can recognise a Kava bar by a red light outside and dim lighting inside.
It is about 100CFP compared to 500CFP for a beer, so about a fifth of the price.
You drink the Kava immediately once you've purchased it and then go off to a dark bench to chill.Sleep
There are many places around New Caledonia that are affordable and in good condition. All you have to do is search around and you will find somewhere to sleep within your price range.Get around
Rent a car
Cheapest are:Red point (requires drivers above 24 years of age)Loco-a-choc Catch a bus
The buses aren't too bad and go pretty much everywhere, but they aren't frequent. Hitching
It is possible, but not advised. Around celebrations there are many drunk drivers on the roads.Work
Volontariat Civil Ã l'Aide Technique ( VCAT
). Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area. You must be over 18 and under 28 years old (inclusive). You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences.Stay safe
New Caledonia is fairly safe. When snorkeling, one should avoid direct contact with poisonous sea urchins, as well as avoid sustaining scrapes from coral structures, which tends to cause irritations and swelling. A seasnake known locally as the Tricot RayÃ© has a potentially lethal venom, but the snake is not aggressive when left alone, and only attacks when threatened.There are sharks, though rarely Great White Sharks. They can be quite big mind you and basically avoid shark attacks by:* Not having caught (bleeding) fish near yourself* Facing the shark, so that to the shark, you look large, vertical and difficult to biteThere are NO crocodiles living in New Caledonia. Rogue individuals have been observed on the island no more than twice within the past 200 years. Probably swept out from the Solomon Islands. Stay healthy
Iodine or a similar disinfectant is invaluable to fight off small infections, which quite commonly occur in most sores and scratches.
Some mosquitoes carry the dengue fever virus. There is no vaccination for this. Consult a doctor for more information, and see the Wikitravel article.Respect
The locals are pretty friendly. Make sure you know a bit of French before you leave, so you don't mistakably offend anyone.
; popular names: Kanaky
, Le caillou
), is a "sui generis
collectivity" (in practice an overseas territory) of France, made up of a main island (Grande Terre
), the Loyalty Islands, and several smaller islands. It is located in the region of Melanesia in the southwest Pacific. At about half the size of Taiwan, it has a land area of 18,575.5 square kilometres (7,172 sq mi). The population was 236,528 inhabitants as of January 2006 official estimates. It has an Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) of .nc. The capital and largest city of the territory is NoumÃ©a. The currency is the CFP franc.
Since 1986 the United Nations Committee on Decolonization has included New Caledonia on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories (a disputed list which also includes the UK's Falkland Islands, New Zealand's Tokelau, and the American Samoa). New Caledonia will decide whether to remain within the French Republic or become an independent state in a referendum sometime after 2014.
Its capital NoumÃ©a is the seat of the regional organization the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (formerly the South Pacific Commission).Origin of the name
The name Caledonia
derives from the Latin name of an area corresponding to modern Scotland. The name Kanaky
is also in common usage in French, English and the indigenous languages. This name is favored by Melanesian nationalists. The word comes from kanaka
, a Hawai`ian word (elsewhere tangata
and variants) meaning "human/person/people", used by Polynesians to refer to themselves. The word was later used by the French about all the indigenous inhabitants of the South Pacific Ocean, including the Melanesian (non-Polynesian) native inhabitants of New Caledonia. The word, turned into Canaque
in French, became derogative. In the 1960s and 1970s, when the Melanesian native inhabitants started to organize themselves into political parties and call for independence, the word was transformed into a symbol of political emancipation and pride. In 1983, during the period of political turmoil, the terms Kanak
became political brand names and colonial whites (Caldoches) realized the name had changed into a political statement.History
The western Pacific was first populated about 50,000 years ago. The Austronesians moved into the area later. The diverse group of people that settled over the Melanesian archipelagos are known as the Lapita. They arrived in the archipelago now commonly known as New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands around 1500 BC. The Lapita were highly skilled navigators and agriculturists with influence over a large area of the Pacific.
From about the 11th century Polynesians also arrived and mixed with the populations of the archipelago.
Europeans first sighted New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands in the late 18th century. The British explorer James Cook sighted Grande Terre in 1774 and named it New Caledonia
, Caledonia being the Latin name for Scotland. During the same voyage he also named the islands to the north of New Caledonia the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), after the islands north of Scotland.
British and North American whalers and sandalwood traders became interested in New Caledonia and tensions developed as their approach became increasingly dishonest (an arrogant attitude and cheating became commonplace). Europeans used alcohol and tobacco amongst other things to barter for commodities. Contact with Europeans brought new diseases such as smallpox, measles, dysentery, influenza, syphilis and leprosy. Many people died as a result of these diseases. Tensions developed into hostilities and in 1849 the crew of the Cutter
were killed and eaten by the Pouma clan.
As trade in sandalwood declined it was replaced by a new form of trade. Blackbirding involved enslaving people from New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands to work in sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland. The trade ceased at the start of the 20th century.
Catholic and Protestant missionaries first arrived in the nineteenth century. They had a profound effect on indigenous culture. They insisted people should wear clothes to cover themselves. They eradicated many local practices and traditions.
The island was made a French possession in late 1853 in an attempt by Napoleon III to rival the British colonies in Australia and New Zealand. Following the example set by the British in nearby Australia, between 1864 and 1922 France sent a total of 22,000 convicted felons to penal colonies along the south-west coast of the island; this number includes regular criminals as well as political prisoners such as Parisian socialists and Kabyle nationalists. Towards the end of the penal colony era, free European settlers (including former convicts) and Asian contract workers by far out-numbered the population of forced workers. The indigenous Kanak populations declined drastically in that same period due to introduced diseases and an apartheid-like system called Code de l'IndigÃ©nat
which imposed severe restrictions on their livelihood, freedom of movement and land ownership.
New Caledonia has been on a United Nations list of non-self-governing territories since 1986. This list includes such places as the American Samoa, the British Falkland Islands or the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, but noticeably it does not include places like Tibet or West Papua, which has led to its reputation as a politically biased list. Agitation by the Front de LibÃ©ration Nationale Kanak Socialiste (FLNKS) for independence began in 1985. The FLNKS (led by the late Jean-Marie Tjibaou, assassinated in 1989) advocated the creation of an independent state of 'Kanaky'. The troubles culminated in 1988 with a bloody hostage taking in OuvÃ©a. The unrest led to agreement on increased autonomy in the Matignon Accords of 1988 and the NoumÃ©a Accord of 1998. This Accord describes the devolution process as "irreversible" and also provides for a local Caledonian citizenship, separate official symbols of Caledonian identity (such as a "national" flag), as well as mandating a referendum on the contentious issue of independence from the French Republic sometime after 2014.Politics
The unique status of New Caledonia is in between that of an independent country and a normal overseas dÃ©partement
On the one hand, both a Territorial Congress (CongrÃ¨s du territoire
) and government have been established, and are increasingly empowered via the gradual implementation of a devolution of powers from France in favour of New Caledonia, pursuant to the 1998 NoumÃ©a Accord. Key areas (e.g. taxation, labour law, health and hygiene, foreign trade, and others) are already in the hands of the Territorial Congress and government. Further authority will supposedly be given to the Territorial Congress in the near future. Ultimately, the French Republic should only remain in charge of foreign affairs, justice, defense, public order, and treasury. An additional enhancement to New Caledonian autonomy has come in the form of recently-introduced territorial "citizenship": Only New Caledonian "citizens" have the right to vote in local elections. The introduction of this right has been criticised, because it creates a second-class status for French citizens living in New Caledonia who do not possess New Caledonian "citizenship" (because they settled in the territory recently). Further signs of increased autonomy for the territory, include New Caledonia's right to engage in international cooperation with independent countries of the Pacific Ocean region, the continued use of a local currency (the French Pacific Franc, or CFP) rather than the Euro, as well as the authority of the Territorial Congress to pass statutes overriding French law in a certain number of areas.
On the other hand, New Caledonia remains a part of the French Republic, even if not perhaps an integral part. Despite the above-referenced fact that New Caledonia is free to refuse to use the Euro as the sole official local currency (in contrast to the four French departments d'outremer proper --- Reunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique and French Guyana), the inhabitants of New Caledonia nevertheless remain French citizens and carry French passports. They take part in the legislative and presidential French elections, sending two representatives to the French National Assembly and one senator to the French Senate. The representative of the French central state in New Caledonia is the High Commissioner of the Republic (Haut-Commissaire de la RÃ©publique
, locally known as "haussaire
"), who is the head of civil services, and who sits as an integral part of the territorial government.
The NoumÃ©a Accord provides a mechanism for the determination of the ultimate status and degree of New Caledonian territorial autonomy: Pursuant to the Accord, the Territorial Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on independence, at any time of its choosing after 2014.
The current president of the government elected by the territorial Congress is Marie-NoÃ«lle ThÃ©mereau, from the loyalist (i.e. anti-independence) l'Avenir Ensemble
party ("Future Together"), which toppled the long-time ruling RPCR (Rally for Caledonia inside the Republic) in May 2004. "Future Together" is a party of mostly Caucasian and Polynesian New Caledonians opposed to independence, but rebelling against the quasi-dictatorial, hegemonistic and (allegedly) corrupt anti-independence RPCR, led by the now-discredited Jacques Lafleur. Their toppling of the RPCR (that was until then seen as the only voice of New Caledonian whites) was a surprise to many, and a sign that New Caledonian society is undergoing changes. "Future Together," as the name implies, is opposed to a racial-oriented vision of New Caledonian political life, one based purely on the political primacy of either the Melanesian native inhabitants or the descendants of European settlers. Rather, it is in favour of a multicultural New Caledonia, of governing principles that better reflect the reality of the existence of large populations of Polynesians, Indonesians, Chinese, and other immigrant communities that make up the nation. Some members of "Future Together" are even in favour of independence, though not necessarily on the same basis as the Melanesian independence parties.
Aside from the challenges posed by charting a course for the territory's racial and political life, the current government faces an additional, extraordinary challenge in balancing the needs of the territory's mining-based economy, with the protection of its globally-recognized, ecological-important wild areas (see Ecology, above, as well as well as Biodiversity of New Caledonia and Endemic Birds of New Caledonia). The territory is essentially one of the most evolutionarily isolated areas in the world, and its natural environment is comparable in many ways to a real-life Jurassic Park (film), especially with regards to its native plant life and its barrier reef, the second largest in the world. Although, no animal dinosaurs obviously exist today, New Caledonia's flora (and, in a few cases, fauna) is extraordinarily primitive, substantially unchanged from the days of the dinosaurs, and can be found virtually nowhere else on earth outside of its small land mass. Safeguarding and preserving such a critical biological resource is an important national responsibility --- one which, to date, has taken a distant back seat to the rapid and destructive exploitation of the nation's many and substantial mineral resources (nickel, and other metals). It is those very mineral resources which permit New Caledonia to have a fairly prosperous economy today, and which have made the elite and influential classes in New Caledonia quite wealthy.
As recently as the late 1990s and the early part of the new millennium, the RPCR under Jacques Lafleur (whose family was among those benefiting from exploitation of the territory's mineral wealth) ruthlessly (and often violently) suppressed efforts by incipient, grass-roots environmental organizers like Bruno Van Peteghem. Although such efforts merely sought to implement and observe reasonable environmental norms (transparency in legal proceedings, implementation of required environmental studies prior to destructive human activities, and unbreakable protection of the most critical of biological preserves), Bruno Van Peteghem experienced threats, the firebombing of his home, and eventually, employment-based pressure that led to his exile from New Caledonia. His allies faced similar experiences.
The plight of New Caledonia's environmental patrimony gradually became known to the world at large, partly because Van Peteghem was made a recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his efforts and sacrifice on behalf of Caledonian ecological protection. In the face of mounting international public awareness, the government slowly implemented some modifications to its near-nonexistent ecological-protection policies. For example, funds were spent on the restoration and upgrading of facilities of a few, high-profile ecologically-important sites, like the famed Madeleine Waterfalls Preserve (Chutes de la Madeleine). Although this prevented the kinds of abuses by the general public that had previously threatened the site (e.g. wood-cutting, fire, garbage, graffiti, etc.), it ultimately does little to give iron-clad protection from mining or industrial exploitation, should those be proposed for preserves like the Madeleine Waterfalls Preserve. This very fate befell the ecologically-significant area which was completely razed to implement the nearby INCO nickel mine.
Today, despite continued slow progress in a few areas (e.g. judicial revocation of the INCO mining license in June of 2006 due to numerous abuses), the government still moves slowly, if at all, to address grave threats to New Caledonia's ecological diversity from fire, industrial and residential development, and unrestricted agricultural activity, as well as mining. Every year, more of New Caledonia's natural environment is destroyed or degraded all over its small landmass, due to governmental inaction and willful lack of funding for protective resources. Compounding the problem, is the fact that local environmental-protection agencies, charged with intelligent oversight of natural resources, have implemented a few well-intentioned, but ultimately counterproductive measures whose ultimate effect is to undercut the preservation of natural genetic diversity of the territory's flora and fauna.Subdivisions
Along with other Pacific Ocean's territories of French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna, New Caledonia is part of the French Republic. Its official status, unique in the French Republic, is said to be sui generis
, because New Caledonia is the only French subdivision that is not a collectivitÃ© territoriale
. New Caledonia was a colony until 1946, then an overseas territory (territoire d'outre-mer
, or TOM
) from 1946 to 1999. The capital is NoumÃ©a, the only major conurbation in the territory.
Administratively, the archipelago is divided into three provinces:South Province (province Sud). Provincial capital: NoumÃ©a. Population: 164,113 inhabitants (2004).North Province (province Nord). Provincial capital: KonÃ©. Population: 44,596 inhabitants (2004).Loyalty Islands Province (province des Ã®les LoyautÃ©). Provincial capital: Lifou. Population: 22,080 inhabitants (2004).
It is further subdivided into thirty-three communes. One commune, Poya, is divided between two provinces. The northern half of Poya, with the main settlement and most of the population, is part of the North Province, while the southern half of the commune, with only 122 inhabitants in 2004, is part of the South Province.
|Loyalty Islands Province|
#Poya (south part)
- Poya (north part)
There also exist three administrative subdivisions, simply known as subdivisions
in French, with exactly the same names and same boundaries as the three provinces, except that the commune of Poya is entirely contained inside the North Subdivision. Contrary to the provinces, which are full political divisions with provincial assemblies and executives, the administrative subdivisions are merely deconcentrated divisions of the French central state, akin to the arrondissements
of metropolitan France, with a Deputy Commissioner of the Republic (commissaire dÃ©lÃ©guÃ© de la RÃ©publique
), akin to a subprefect of metropolitan France, in residence in each subdivision's chief town.
The subdivision chief towns are the same as the provincial capitals except in the South Subdivision where the chief town is La Foa, whereas the capital of the South Province is NoumÃ©a. Thus, although the provincial assembly of the South Province sits in NoumÃ©a, the South Subdivision's Deputy Commissioner of the Republic is in residence in La Foa. This was decided in order to counterbalance the overwhelming weight of NoumÃ©a in New Caledonia.
In addition, a parallel layer of administration exists for Kanak tribal affairs; these are called aires coutumiÃ¨res
("traditional spheres") and are eight in number (see map of the "aires coutumiÃ¨res"
). Their jurisdiction does not encompass non-Kanaks living within these zones. The aires coutumiÃ¨res
more or less correspond to the indigenous language areas of pre-French tribal alliances.Geography
New Caledonia is located around in the southwest Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,200 kilometres (746 mi) east of Australia and 1,500 kilometres (932 mi) northwest of New Zealand. The island nation of Vanuatu lies to the northeast.
New Caledonia is made up of a main island, the Grande Terre
, and several smaller islands, the Belep archipelago to the north of the Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands to the east of the Grande Terre, the ÃŽle des Pins to the south of the Grande Terre, the Chesterfield Islands and Bellona Reefs further to the west.
The Grande Terre is by far the largest of the islands, and the only mountainous island. It has an area of 16,372 square kilometres (6,321 sq mi), and is elongated northwest-southeast, 350 kilometres (217 mi) in length and 50 to 70 kilometres (31–44 mi) wide. A mountain range runs the length of the island, with five peaks over 1,500 meters (4,900 ft). The highest point is Mont PaniÃ© at 1,628 meters (5,341 ft) elevation . The total area of New Caledonia is , of those being land.
New Caledonian soils contain a considerable wealth of industrially-critical elements and minerals, including about one-quarter of the world's nickel resources. Mining is therefore a significant industry that greatly benefits the national economy. However, the country is also home to numerous, critically-important ancient ecosystems. Thus, widely-practiced and indiscriminate open-pit mining across much of New Caledonia, has been (and continues to be) responsible for severe deterioration of the nation's irreplaceable natural heritage.
New Caledonia is one of the northernmost parts of a (93%) submerged continent called Zealandia. It sank after rifting away from Australia 60â€“85 million years ago and from Antarctica between 130 and 85 million years ago. It is in area, almost half the size of Australia and is unusually long and narrow. Climate
New Caledonia lies astride the Tropic of Capricorn, between 19Â° and 23Â° south latitude. The climate of the islands is tropical, and rainfall is highly seasonal, brought by trade winds that usually come from the east. Rainfall averages about 1,500 millimetres (59 in) yearly on the Loyalty Islands, 2,000 millimetres (79 in) at low elevations on eastern the Grande Terre, and 2,000-4,000 millimetres (79–157.5 in) at high elevations on the Grande Terre. The western side of the Grande Terre lies in the rain shadow of the central mountains, and rainfall averages 1,200 millimetres (47 in) per year. Ecology
New Caledonia is considered one of the world's most botanically-important, and critically endangered hotspots. Unlike many of the Pacific Islands, which are of relatively recent volcanic origin, New Caledonia is an ancient fragment of the Gondwana super-continent. New Caledonia and New Zealand separated from Australia 85 million years ago, and from one another 55 million years ago. This isolated New Caledonia from the rest of the world's landmasses, and made it a Noah's Ark of sorts, preserving a snapshot of prehistoric Gondwanan forests. The country still shelters an extraordinary diversity of unique, endemic, and extremely primitive plants and animals of Gondwanan origin. For more information on the significance of this country's flora and fauna, as well as the dangers it faces, and its effects on national social, economic, and political life, see Biodiversity of New Caledonia and Endemic Birds of New Caledonia.
Although the majority of the country's citizens are unaware of the extraordinary nature of their country's biological patrimony, a few of the country's animals and plants have become somewhat emblematic in local culture. Among the best known, is a hen-sized, flightless bird, commonly-known as the Cagou or Kagu, which has a large crest and an odd cooing call. Its song and image are frequently seen as nationally-recognized icons. Another frequently used cultural emblem is the Columnar or Cook's Pine (Araucaria columnaris)
, an important symbol in Kanak culture. The Niaouli tree (also native to Australia and New Guinea), is of medicinal interest, locally and abroad. Its sap (which contains Gomenol, a camphor-smelling compound), is used to treat head colds, and as an antiseptic. It also shows potential to treat other medical ailments. Before the Europeans arrived, there was no mammal other than the Roussette (aka flying fox), a large vegetarian bat, considered a local delicacy. Less well-known by the native population, is the fact their country is home to a species of plant, (Amborella trichopoda)
, believed to be genetically close to the ancestor of all flowering plants, or the fact their nation boasts the largest number and diversity of conifer species in the world, per geographic area (a remarkable fact, given that conifers are usually relatively rare in tropical regions).
The islands contain two precipitation zones: Higher-rainfall areas (located on the Loyalty Islands, Isle of Pines (ÃŽle des Pins), and on the eastern side of Grande Terre) which support New Caledonia rain forests, and a more arid region, home to the now exceedingly-endangered New Caledonia dry forests, located in the rain shadow on the western side of Grande Terre. Europeans settled on the dry west coast of Grande Terre, leaving the east (as well as the Loyalty Islands and the Isle of Pines) to the Kanaks, and resulting in an ethno-cultural division which coincides with the natural one. Extensive farming by Europeans in the dry forest areas, has caused these forest ecosystems to virtually disappear.
It is a vast oversimplification, however, to merely describe New Caledonia's extremely important, complex and diverse ecology in terms of precipitation zones. Species and ecological diversity is further complicated by soil type (degree and type of mineralization), altitude, and geographic location (for instance, Loyalty Islands and Isle of Pines have flora that is distinct from Grande Terre).
In addition to the remarkable terrestrial environment of New Caledonia, the country is also home to important aquatic ecosystems. Its freshwater ecology also evolved in long isolation, and the New Caledonia rivers and streams are home to many endemic species. Moreover, the New Caledonia Barrier Reef, which surrounds Grande Terre and the Isle of Pines (ÃŽle des Pins), is the second-largest coral reef in the world after Australia's Great Barrier Reef, reaching a length of 1,500 kilometres (930 mi). Like its terrestrial counterpart, the Caledonian reef system has great species diversity, is home to endangered dugongs (Dugong dugong)
, and is an important nesting site for the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)
. The Nautilus is a living-fossil species, once common during the age of the dinosaurs, and survives today in the waters surrounding New Caledonia.Demographics
Though still the largest group, the indigenous Melanesian Kanak community now represents 44.6% of the whole population (as of 1996 census), their proportion of the population having declined due to immigration and other factors. The rest of the population is made up of ethnic groups that arrived in New Caledonia in the last 150 years: Europeans (34.5%) (predominantly French, with German, British and Italian minorities), Polynesians (Wallisians, Tahitians) (11.8%), Indonesians (2.6%), Vietnamese (1.4%), Ni-Vanuatu (1.2%), and various other groups (3.9%), such as Malabaris and Tamils, Indians (Hindu and Muslim), Sri Lankans, Bengalis, Berbers, Japanese, Chinese, Fijians (Native Fijians and Fiji Indians), Arabs, West Indian (mostly from other French territories) and a small number of ethnic Africans. Some of this immigration was a direct consequence of various conflicts around the world but in particular of the crumbling of the French colonial empire. The Kanak are known officially as Melanesians. Similarly, those whose roots are in French Polynesia are known either as Tahitians (which excludes persons originating in the other archipelagoes of French Polynesia) or simply as Polynesians (which would include both Tahitians and Wallisians, as well as many other minor groups). Whites that have lived in New Caledonia for several generations are locally known as Caldoches
, whereas newcomers who have immigrated from metropolitan France are called MÃ©tros
. Within the official statistical category "Europeans" no distinction is made between Caledonian-born whites and French-born whites, however it is estimated that approximately two thirds identify themselves with the Caldoche community while the rest see themselves primarily as French immigrants. There is a significant contingent of people that arrive from France to work for a year or two and others that have come to retire. The Caldoche usually refer to themselves simply as calÃ©doniens
and may be either white (mostly French or German) or white with an admixture of Asian, Melanesian or Polynesian ancestry. Caldoche culture has many similarities with Australian and Afrikaner culture. Until very recently the Kanak population held an economically disadvantaged position in New Caledonian society, while wealthy French expatriates formed the top of the socio-economic hierarchy. The Asian and Polynesian inhabitants dominate certain segments of the local economy.
There have been frequent accusations by the pro-independence movement that the French government is attempting to skew the demographic balance between the ethnic communities by clandestinely settling thousands of people from mainland France among the white Caledonians. Censuses are extremely critical to the balance of power in New Caledonia, and the organisation of a new census was regularly postponed after 1996. Eventually the census was carried out in August and September 2004, amidst raging controversies over ethnic questions. Due to an intervention by French president Jacques Chirac, questions asking for the ethnicity of people were deleted from the 2004 census, officially because they were deemed to contravene the French Constitution, which states that no distinction based on ethnicity or religion should be made among French citizens. The indigenous Melanesian Kanak leaders, who are extremely sensitive to ethnic balance issues, called for New Caledonians of Kanak ethnicity not to return census forms if questions regarding ethnicity were not asked, threatening to derail the census process. Eventually, the stalemate was resolved when the local New Caledonian statistical office (a branch of the national French statistical office INSEE) agreed to ask questions regarding ethnicity. However, it is not known whether questions regarding ethnicity were asked to all residents of New Caledonia, and at any rate no data have been released, leaving the ethnic tables from the 1996 census as the only information on ethnicity currently available.
According to the 2004 census, there were 230,789 inhabitants in New Caledonia. This figure has increased to 236,528 as of January 2006 official estimates. Kanak leaders were fearful of a major influx of whites from metropolitan France which would alter the ethnic balance in the territory, but this has not happened.Population:
236,528 (January 1, 2006 estimate) Age structure:0-14 years:
28,4% (male 31 818, female 30 513)15-64 years:
64,9% (male 71 565, female 70 815)65 years and over:
6,6% (male 6 773, female 7 772) (2006 est.)Population growth rate:
1.84% (in 2005),
1.91% (yearly average from January 2000 to January 2006)Birth rate:
17.2 births/1 000 population (in 2005)Death rate:
4.9 deaths/1 000 population (in 2005)Net migration rate:
5.62 migrants/1 000 population (in 2005),
5.01 migrants/1 000 population (yearly average between beginning of 2000 and end of 2005)Sex ratio:at birth:
1,05 male(s)/femaleunder 15 years:
1,04 male(s)/female15-64 years:
1,01 male(s)/female65 years and over:
0,87 male(s)/femaletotal population:
1,01 male(s)/female (2006 est.)Infant mortality rate:
7,57 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 8,27 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 6,83 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)Life expectancy at birth:
(in 2005)total population:
78.6 yearsTotal fertility rate:
2.20 children born/woman (in 2005)Nationality:noun:
New CaledonianEthnic groups:
(as of 1996 census)
Melanesian 44.6%, European 34.5%, Wallisian 9.1%, Tahitian 2.7%, Indonesian 2.6%, Vietnamese 1.4%, Ni-Vanuatu 1.2%, other 3.9%Religions:
Roman Catholicism 60%, Protestantism 30%, other 10%Languages:
French (official), 33 Melanesian-Polynesian languagesLiteracy:definition:
age 15 and over can read and writetotal population:
90% (1976 est.)Culture
Rugby league has been played in New Caledonia since 2003 when its rugby union governing body and clubs switched to the other code. The New Caledonia national rugby league team represents New Caledonia in international rugby league.Miscellaneous topics
Communications in New CaledoniaEconomy of New CaledoniaMilitary of New CaledoniaMusic of New CaledoniaSister city of NoumÃ©a: Gold Coast, AustraliaTerritorial disputes: International: Matthew and Hunter Islands, claimed by Vanuatu.Transportation in New CaledoniaMining in New Caledonia See also
French overseas departments and territoriesAdministrative divisions of FranceIslands controlled by France in the Indian and Pacific oceansZealandiaExternal links
Open Directory Project - New Caledonia directory categoryLonely Planet WorldGuide profileWebsite for l'Association Endemia: A thorough presentation of New Caledonian biodiversitypast and current developments of France's overseas administrative divisions like New CaledoniaBrousse-en-folie A popular local comic strip seriesGeneral information and maps of the provinces, municipalities and the tribal zonesTourismTourism Information of New-Caledonia