Kiwis trapped in Nouméa: Air NZ has not been flying from New Caledonia for days

New Caledonia’s Tontouta International Airport remains closed and Air New Zealand’s next scheduled flight is on Saturday – although it has not ruled out additional services being added.

Air NZ Captain David Morgan said on Monday evening that flights would only resume if they were assured of airport security and safe access for passengers and staff.

Later, the airline said its “next scheduled service is Saturday, May 25. However, we will continue to assess this and may add capacity when the airport reopens.”

AirCalin said this evening that Tontouta airport would be closed until May 23.

The capital descended into chaos on Monday after riots protesting a controversial new bill that would allow French residents who have lived there for more than a decade to vote – which critics say will weaken the indigenous Kanak vote.

At least six people have been killed and more than 230 arrested.

A New Zealand Defense Forces Hercules is on standby to take 250 Kiwis home, but is waiting for permission from French authorities.

Clearing roadblocks
Hundreds of armed French police have used armored vehicles to clear protesters and roadblocks between the international airport and Nouméa.

The risky route – which stretches about 50 km north of the capital – is the main reason why the airport remains closed.

Emma Roylands, a Kiwi studying at the University of New Caledonia, said nights on campus had been stressful.

“We’ve set up a kind of rota, or crew, that watches over the university at night, and this high level of suspicion with every sound, every bang, is that someone is coming to the university,” she says. said.

Roylands said she was unsure whether French police would succeed in clearing the main road to the airport.

“Clearing the road north for an hour seems like an impossible task with these rioters,” she said.

Shula Guse from Canterbury, who was on holiday with her partner and friends, said many shops were running low on stock.

‘Nothing on the shelves’
“The shops are closed or if they are open they have empty shelves, the local dairy on the corner has nothing on the shelves,” she said.

Guse said she managed to buy some flour and yeast from a local pizzeria and started making her own bread.

She said her group had rebooked flights for tomorrow – but there was no confirmation from Air New Zealand whether the flight would go ahead.

Guse, whose friends were running low on heart medication, said they would have to make other plans if it didn’t happen.

“If today is over and we haven’t heard any news, maybe tomorrow we can look for more medicine, more food, just to make sure we have enough.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) said the NZDF Hercules was ready as soon as French authorities gave permission.

Asked whether the Navy would be deployed, MFAT said the focus was on flight repatriation.

RNZ asked whether New Zealand would consider helping evacuate people from other Pacific countries who were stranded in New Caledonia. MFAT said it has spoken to Pacific partners about the crisis.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said he could not give a timetable on how quickly New Zealanders could return.

He said they continued to explore possible options, including working with Australia and other partners to help New Zealanders get home.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.