Just where and what is New Caledonia?
New Caledonia is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, just west of Australia and north of New Zealand. It is approximately 16,000 kilometres and 24 hours (flight time) away from France (think opposite side of the globe). Time-wise, New Caledonia is ahead of the rest of the world, with only Auckland (New Zealand) being one hour further ahead: it is currently 9 hours ahead of Paris, 15 hours ahead of New York and 18 hours ahead of Los Angeles. (Side note: it is not always that fun being ahead in time; we get European news 24 hours later, for example.)
It has a land area of 18,576 square kilometres, approximately 50 kilometres wide and 400 kilometres long. We are blessed with a beautiful lagoon, calm seas, mountains, rain forests and rivers. Our climate is tropical, with hot and humid period from November to March with temperatures between 27°C and 30°C, and a cooler, dry period from June to August with temperatures between 20°C and 23°C.
New Caledonia has a total population of 252,000, approximately half of which live in the capital city, Nouméa. Only 25,455 are fixed broadband subscribers.
During the “Pacific War” between 1942 and 1946, the Americans occupied the territory, built hospitals and schools and kept the country safe (more on this to follow). The 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “South Pacific” was based on a James Michener novel, “Tales of the South Pacific” which interestingly enough is based on stories from his time on a neighbouring island, Vanuatu. Vanuatu is but a short boat-ride away from New Caledonia.
New Caledonia was a French overseas territory, beginning in 1946. It currently has a special status, due to the Nouméa Accord, signed in 1998. A gradual transfer of power from the French state to New Caledonia itself was begun in 1998, to last from 15 to 20 years. Its independence will come up for public vote in 2014, or later in 2020. Asking around, it is not entirely certain that the people of New Caledonia will vote for their independence, but more on this to follow (as I need to speak with more locals and key in to the local media).
Apparently, “New Caledonia has one of the largest economies in the South Pacific, with a GDP of US$8.85 billion in 2010. The nominal GDP per capita was US$35,436 (at market exchange rates) in 2010. It is thus higher than New Zealand‘s, though there is significant inequality in income distribution, and long-standing structural imbalances between the economically dominant South Province and the less developed North Province and Loyalty Islands“ (Source: Wikipedia).
What makes it special? Its climate, its quality of life, its rich heritage, its diversity. It is a fantastic place to raise children – it is relatively safe, we live outside, there are lots of sports to do and fun to be had. It is also exceptionally beautiful, as you will see in the posts to come, a place that inspires, embraces and soothes the soul.