Rescue flights stall during Macron's New Caledonia trip

Security forces guard the French High Commissioner's office as French President Emmanuel Macron...
Security forces guard the French High Commissioner's office as French President Emmanuel Macron meets New Caledonia's elected officials in Noumea. Photo: Reuters
There will be no rescue flights out of New Caledonia today after France declined applications amid Emmanuel Macron's visit there.

The news follows the safe return of 50 New Zealanders to Auckland - the second such group flying from the country - with reports of explosions, fireworks and gunfire from the political unrest.

The Defence Force flight from Brisbane arrived at 2am after they were flown out of the French territory on board a French-operated flight.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade emailed the remaining New Zealanders on Wednesday evening, saying it had been advised further flights had not been approved to run.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters later confirmed there would be no rescue flights out of New Caledonia today.

After two days of progress the halt on evacuation flights coincided with French President Emmanuel Macron's arrival in Noumea.

The government is frustrated by this delay, and Peters said it continued to urgently engage with its Paris and Noumea counterparts to approve flights home as rapidly as possible.

He said New Zealand was ready to undertake further flights as soon as approval is granted.

On social media site X, Peters also said bringing the rest of them home remained an urgent priority.

"Unfortunately, we have not received approvals from France yet for any flights today. We appreciate this will be frustrating for New Zealanders waiting to come home. We share this frustration.

"We remain ready to undertake further flights, and our aim remains to get these New Zealanders home as soon as possible.

"We continue to engage urgently with the French Government in Wellington, Nouméa and Paris asking that it approves the next flights home as rapidly as possible."

Peters said the consular team was focused on moving Kiwis in other parts of New Caledonia to Nouméa so they were ready to fly home when it was possible.

MFAT said there were still more than 270 New Zealanders wanting to leave Nouméa.

Hard to get information

A New Zealand traveller in New Caledonia, Shula Guse from Canterbury, said it had been hard to get information on the ground without a good knowledge of French, so she was relying on New Zealand media to find out what was going on.

She wanted the New Zealand consulate to communicate more with stranded travellers, saying the phone number was going unanswered and she was in the dark about evacuation flights or which supermarkets and pharmacies were open.

"Other people who are stuck here I think are just as much in the dark as we are. Our only information is coming via Radio New Zealand because we don't speak French very well, so we can't understand the news locally."

Guse said the travellers she was with were aged 64 to 82, and only had enough medication to last until Sunday.

Pacific Islands Forum chairperson and Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown told Morning Report the period of political unrest was "deeply concerning" for the forum family.

Brown said he offered his condolences to those affected, and to those who had lost their lives.

He called for peace and order to prevail so "genuine dialogue" could be engaged in.

Brown said all members of the Pacific Islands Forum were former colonies so he could understand the desire for independence.

But there needed to be a proper sit down face-to-face conversation.

Violence should be the last resort, he said.

Brown said he remained open to discussions with the president of New Caledonia, to discuss issues further and reassure support.

It was not a new issue - but one difficult to go away without proper dialogue and discussion, he said.

The first repatriation flight landed at Auckland International Airport on Tuesday night.

Chris and Mike Riley were arriving back from New Caledonia from what was meant to be a week-long trip.

Chris Riley said they heard lots of explosions, fireworks and gunfire from where they were.

"We were in a lovely place actually, it was quite peaceful, but we were trapped because we couldn't get through because of all the troubles that were there," she said.

Mike Riley said they were both relieved to be home.

"We're not in a hurry to go anywhere apart from Kerikeri," he said.

Carl was in a tourist area of New Caledonia for the past two weeks, which he said was sheltered from the riots.

He said it felt great to get on the Defence Force flight.

"It was a bit of a different type of trip back to New Zealand, but it was fun."