Tuesday, June 18, 2024

New Caledonia evacuation effort praised by Ministers

More than 300 people have been successfully evacuated from New Caledonia in a joint Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) operation.

As of today, seven New Zealand government aircraft flights to Nouméa have assisted around 225 New Zealanders and 145 foreign nationals to travel from New Caledonia to New Zealand. 

Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters says it had been a complex but successful operation since the first flight on 21 May.

“From the moment the international airport was closed due to the unrest in New Caledonia, we put plans in place to help get our people home,” said Mr Peters.

“As soon as we were permitted by the French and New Caledonian authorities, flights were dispatched, not only to assist our people, but to transport foreign nationals from countries that had sought our assistance.

“New Zealanders regularly benefit from consular assistance from our partners in distant places where we are not represented, so it was important that we reciprocate in this instance,” Mr Peters says. 

“We were also pleased to assist New Caledonians, stuck in New Zealand due to the unrest and the closure of Nouméa’s international airport, to return home.”

People from more than 20 other countries were assisted on these repatriation flights including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, France and our Pacific partners Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga. 

Mr Peters visited the MFAT / NZDF Emergency Coordination Centre in Wellington today to personally thank those public servants working on the repatriation efforts. 

He also acknowledged the incredible work done by staff on the ground in Nouméa, particularly New Zealand’s Consulate-General and other staff deployed to provide support.

“We thank the consular staff both here in Wellington and in Nouméa, the NZDF for its rapid and efficient response, and the cooperation of French and Australian officials. As soon as we could help our people, we did,” Mr Peters says.

Minister of Defence, Judith Collins says the women and men of the NZDF were ready, willing, and able to help those in need.

“I’m immensely proud of their professionalism and the way they helped all those people who found themselves in this stressful situation,” Ms Collins says.

“I know my international counterparts are very grateful for the role we were able to play in getting their nationals out of New Caledonia in what is another example of New Zealand stepping up and doing our bit.”

Minister Peters said the situation in New Caledonia remained of utmost importance to New Zealand, which will continue to work with partners to help contribute to a peaceful resolution.

“Since the situation on the ground escalated two weeks ago, New Zealand has expressed our strong concern at the situation in New Caledonia and called for peace, calm and dialogue.”

“Working with France, Australia, and our Pacific Island partners, we will continue to encourage steps towards a resolution to the current situation which respects basic principles of dialogue and fairness. Now is time for cool heads, wisdom, and open dialogue on all sides,” he said.

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