NEWS FROM NEW CALEDONIA

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Monday, August 23, 1999

PINA Nius Online

PORT VILA MAYOR TO ADAPT THE NOUMEA WAY IN VANUATU

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 23, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Mayor Patrick Crowby of Vanuatu’s capital of Port Vila ended a four-day study tour in neighboring Noumea Friday, saying the ideas he obtained from the French territory's capital will be put to good use back home, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

French-speaking Crowby's visit, which was funded through a regional cooperation agreement between Vanuatu and New Caledonia, took the Mayor and his four-strong delegation to meetings with French, territorial and Noumea officials and the capital’s municipal police.

They discussed such matters as land and waste management and law enforcement issues. The meetings could lead to further exchange and cooperation programs between the two cities.

After talks with the French government's representative in New Caledonia, High Commissioner Thierry Lataste, and Noumea Lord Mayor Jean Lèques, who also happens to be the President of newly set-up New Caledonian government, Crowby also visited the Tjiabou Cultural Center.

"My approach to city management is dependent on our opening up to new horizons. And I've learned so many things during my visit here, particularly in the environment and police fields," Crowby said in an interview with Les Nouvelles.

"But this doesn't mean I came here only to make photocopies. I now have to adapt techniques from a model that works," he said.

"Of course, there are more exchanges to develop between Noumea and Port Vila, but France should also have similar agreements with other municipalities in the Pacific, like, for instance, in the Solomon Islands and Fiji."

Crowby conceded that the Noumea governance was not necessarily fully adaptable to Port Vila, simply because of huge differences in the two towns' respective budgets.

"Noumea has 80,000 inhabitants and a budget of several billion Pacific Francs. Port Vila has 40,000 inhabitants and an annual budget of 200 million CFP (US$ 2 million). But I think I can still adapt some ideas I've seen functioning here to our capital."

NAKETY NICKEL MINE ROADBLOCK LIFTED

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 23, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Roadblocks erected last week by frustrated MKM miners at the Nakety nickel mining site (north of here) were lifted on Sunday, but the situation remained tense, with current owner Ballande company threatening to withdraw an earlier offer made to traditional landowners, it was reported here on Monday.

The roadblock was lifted on Sunday morning, RFO-radio reports.

It was placed Tuesday last week at Crève-Coeur (Pierced Heart) by angry Mai Kouaoua Mining (MKM) company staff and Gélina villagers, who claimed the right to remove their equipment.

The industrial machinery, including heavy trucks, was earlier damaged and ransacked by villagers from neighboring Canala.

As tension mounted last week, (MKM) union spokesman Lionel Cagnon was wounded by a gun shot while being interviewed by RFO-television at the roadblocked Nakety mining site.

Meanwhile, current mining site owner, the affluent Ballande company, has now threatened to withdraw an offer it made last month to local villagers and their Société Minière de Nakety (SMN).

Assets valued at some 300 million French Pacific Francs (US$ 3 million) were to be paid in kind by SMN with future nickel production revenues.

The deal involved the forfeiture of the nickel-mining site in exchange for one symbolic French franc, but excluded MKM, the other company intending to work there.

MKM was ordered to leave the nickel mining site last month. But as it was preparing to remove the equipment earlier this month, the MKM camp was attacked and ransacked by Nakety villagers, causing some US$ 200,000 worth of damage.

Ballande President Louis Ballande on Sunday met the Nakety villagers to tell them he was "very seriously considering withdrawing " his offer, adding, "conditions to the forfeiture were not fulfilled."

He denied any relation between last week's events and the company's intention, but put the blame on the French territory's authorities, who had not yet endorsed papers necessary for the transfer.

CANADIAN CULTURAL ASSOCIATION DONATES BOOKS TO NOUMEA LIBRARY

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 23, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---Canadians are showing a commitment to defend the French language, even on French territory. A Canadian association for the promotion of the French language, Alliance Champlain, on Friday donated some sixty books to the Berhneim library in Noumea, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Quebec-based Alliance Champlain President, French-speaking Canadian Daniel Miroux, who is on a visit to the French Territory, brought with him books dealing with history, economics and politics, as well as novels and poetry, all from Quebec (a Canadian province founded by French navigators Cartier and Champlain in the 16th century).

The event is not the first. For the last five years, a regular delivery of sixty books per year has been being donated to the Noumea library, which now stocks over three hundred from partly French speaking Canada.

Under the exchange program, Alliance Champlain (a cultural association founded in 1985) aims to sensitize New Caledonia's readers to French-speaking cultures around the world and to promote more exchanges between Canada and France.

The French languages in France and in Canada, since they were separated politically some four hundred years ago, have been evolving in sometimes colorfully different ways, each tongue retaining its own particularities.

Canada, under its Constitution, recognizes both French and English as its official languages.

NEW ZEALAND TOPS TO NEW CALEDONIAN SKIERS

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (August 23, 1999 - PINA Nius Online)---New Zealand remains a favorite with New Caledonia's holiday makers craving for snow away from the French Alps, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

With the skiing season typically at its peak in August and September, New Caledonian snow-lovers rate the New Zealand mounts as tops in the quality/price ratio, with resorts famous for after-ski entertainment.

In New Caledonia, the peak season in New Zealand coincides with September school holidays.

As many as 1,074 residents from the French territory traveled to New Zealand last year during the July-September quarter, territorial statistics institute ITSEE states.

Most popular destinations include resorts in the areas of Queenstown and Christchurch.

"This year promises to be even more popular, because the snow season started as early as May," Unitours tour operator manager Françoise Chenais explained.

New Zealand is seen here as "more affordable " than Australia because of attractive packages, one of which is the " Ski Express." It includes one week's hotel stay, plane tickets and transfers for around US$ 1,000 per person.

The French patronage also seems to be appreciated in New Zealand.

"New Caledonians may only be a small part of all the tourists visiting New Zealand, but they spend a lot, go out a lot and they come back year after year. Generally, they also stay longer, an average of seven to ten days," Air Calédonie International airline's New Zealand destination manager William Legrand said.

This bulletin was produced by the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA). Editor: Patrick Antoine Decloitre For more information, contact Nina Ratulele, PINA Administrator, at pina@is.com.fj

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