New Caledonia’s time to decide

Alex Vines on the island’s referendum to break free from France

The World Today
2 minute READ

New Caledonia is a large island in the south-western Pacific which hardly ever makes the headlines. It will do soon, however, as it prepares for a referendum on independence.

The island was named by James Cook in 1774, became a French colony in 1853 and a French Overseas Territory in 1946. All its citizens today are fully French citizens.

When New Caledonia is in the news its usually about unique flora and wildlife, from tool-craft intelligent wild crows, almost flightless Kagus and the world’s largest gecko. But what makes New Caledonia strategically important is nickel – it has 10 per cent of the world’s reserves.

James Cook briefly set foot on the island and thought that it looked Caledonian. Like Scotland in 2014, today the territory is preparing for a referendum on independence from France, due by the end of 2018.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.