Photos of New Caledonia

Introduction

Background

Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island became a French possession in 1853. It served as a penal colony for four decades after 1864. Agitation for independence during the 1980s and early 1990s ended in the 1998 Noumea Accord, which over two decades transferred an increasing amount of governing responsibility from France to New Caledonia. In a referendum held in November 2018, residents rejected independence and decided to retain their territorial status, although two additional referendums may occur in 2020 and 2022, per the Noumea Accord.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia

Geographic coordinates

21 30 S, 165 30 E

Area

total: 18,575 sq km

land: 18,275 sq km

water: 300 sq km

country comparison to the world: 155

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than New Jersey

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

2,254 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

exclusive economic zone: 200 nm

Climate

tropical; modified by southeast trade winds; hot, humid

Terrain

coastal plains with interior mountains

Elevation

lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m

highest point: Mont Panie 1,628 m

Natural resources

nickel, chrome, iron, cobalt, manganese, silver, gold, lead, copper

Land use

agricultural land: 10.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 9.8% (2018 est.)

forest: 45.9% (2018 est.)

other: 43.7% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

100 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

most of the populace lives in the southern part of the main island, in and around the capital of Noumea

Natural hazards

cyclones, most frequent from November to March

volcanism: Matthew and Hunter Islands are historically active

Geography - note

consists of the main island of New Caledonia (one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean), the archipelago of Iles Loyaute, and numerous small, sparsely populated islands and atolls

People and Society

Nationality

noun: New Caledonian(s)

adjective: New Caledonian

Ethnic groups

Kanak 39.1%, European 27.1%, Wallisian, Futunian 8.2%, Tahitian 2.1%, Indonesian 1.4%, Ni-Vanuatu 1%, Vietnamese 0.9%, other 17.7%, unspecified 2.5% (2014 est.)

Languages

French (official), 33 Melanesian-Polynesian dialects

Religions

Roman Catholic 60%, Protestant 30%, other 10%

Age structure

0-14 years: 21.74% (male 32,227/female 30,819)

15-24 years: 15.63% (male 23,164/female 22,163)

25-54 years: 43.73% (male 63,968/female 62,856)

55-64 years: 9.06% (male 12,700/female 13,568)

65 years and over: 9.84% (male 12,552/female 15,992) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 46.6

youth dependency ratio: 32.4

elderly dependency ratio: 14.2

potential support ratio: 7 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 32.9 years

male: 32.1 years

female: 33.7 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 103

Birth rate

14.28 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 126

Death rate

5.84 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 168

Net migration rate

3.71 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

note: there has been steady emigration from Wallis and Futuna to New Caledonia

country comparison to the world: 32

Population distribution

most of the populace lives in the southern part of the main island, in and around the capital of Noumea

Urbanization

urban population: 71.9% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.72% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

198,000 NOUMEA (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female

total population: 1 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 5.08 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 6.07 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 4.05 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 177

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 78.59 years

male: 74.66 years

female: 82.71 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 67

Drinking water source

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.22 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Sanitation facility access

improved: total: 100% of population

unimproved: total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Literacy

definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 96.9%

male: 97.3%

female: 96.5% (2015)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 38.4%

male: 37.1%

female: 40% (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 15

Environment

Environment - current issues

preservation of coral reefs; prevention of invasive species; limiting erosion caused by nickel mining and forest fires

Air pollutants

carbon dioxide emissions: 5.33 megatons (2016 est.)

Climate

tropical; modified by southeast trade winds; hot, humid

Land use

agricultural land: 10.4% (2018 est.)

arable land: 0.4% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 9.8% (2018 est.)

forest: 45.9% (2018 est.)

other: 43.7% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 71.9% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 1.72% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: high (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea

vectorborne diseases: malaria

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 108,157 tons (2016 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Territory of New Caledonia and Dependencies

conventional short form: New Caledonia

local long form: Territoire des Nouvelle-Caledonie et Dependances

local short form: Nouvelle-Caledonie

etymology: British explorer Captain James COOK discovered and named New Caledonia in 1774; he used the appellation because the northeast of the island reminded him of Scotland (Caledonia is the Latin designation for Scotland)

Dependency status

special collectivity (or a sui generis collectivity) of France since 1998; note - independence referenda took place on 4 November 2018 and 4 October 2020 with a majority voting to reject independence in favor of maintaining the status quo; an additional referenda, still unsceheduled, may occur in 2022

Government type

parliamentary democracy (Territorial Congress); an overseas collectivity of France

Capital

name: Noumea

geographic coordinates: 22 16 S, 166 27 E

time difference: UTC+11 (16 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: established in 1854 as Port-de-France, the settlement was renamed Noumea in 1866, in order to avoid any confusion with Fort-de-France in Martinique; the New Caledonian language of Ndrumbea (also spelled Ndumbea, Dubea, and Drubea) spoken in the area gave its name to the capital city, Noumea, as well as to the neighboring town (suburb) of Dumbea

Administrative divisions

3 provinces; Province Iles (Islands Province), Province Nord (North Province), and Province Sud (South Province)

Independence

none (overseas collectivity of France); note - in two independence referenda, on 4 November 2018 and 4 October 2020, the majority voted to reject independence in favor of maintaining the status quo

National holiday

Fete de la Federation, 14 July (1790); note - the local holiday is New Caledonia Day, 24 September (1853)

Constitution

history: 4 October 1958 (French Constitution with changes as reflected in the Noumea Accord of 5 May 1998)

amendments: French constitution amendment procedures apply

Legal system

civil law system based on French civil law

Citizenship

see France

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Emmanuel MACRON (since 14 May 2017); represented by High Commissioner Laurent PREVOST (since 5 August 2019)

head of government: President of the Government Thierry SANTA (since 9 July 2019); Temporary Vice President Gilbert TUIENON (since 9 July 2019); note - Temporary Vice President Gilbert TUIENON was elected so that the new government could take over; Philippe GERMAIN' s government remained caretaker government until the new government was settled

cabinet: Cabinet elected from and by the Territorial Congress

elections/appointments: French president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); high commissioner appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior; president of New Caledonia elected by Territorial Congress for a 5-year term (no term limits); election last held on 13 June 2017 (next to be held in 2022)

election results: Thierry SANTA elected president by Territorial Congress with 6 votes out of 11

Legislative branch

description: unicameral Territorial Congress or Congrès du Territoire (54 seats; members indirectly selected proportionally by the partisan makeup of the 3 Provincial Assemblies or Assemblés Provinciales; members of the 3 Provincial Assemblies directly elected by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms); note - the Customary Senate is the assembly of the various traditional councils of the Kanaks, the indigenous population, which rules on laws affecting the indigenous population
New Caledonia indirectly elects 2 members to the French Senate by an electoral colleges for a 6-year term with one seat renewed every 3 years and directly elects 2 members to the French National Assembly by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term

elections:
Territorial Congress - last held on 12 May 2019 (next to be held in May 2024)
French Senate - election last held on 24 September 2017 (next to be held not later than 2019)

French National Assembly - election last held on 11 and 18 June 2017 (next to be held by June 2022)

election results:

Territorial Congress - percent of vote by party - N/A; seats by party -Future With Confidence 18, UNI 9, UC 9, CE 7, FLNKS 6, Oceanic Awakening 3, PT 1, LKS 1 (Anti-Independence 28, Pro-Independence 26); composition - men 30, women 24, percent of women 44.4%


French Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - UMP 2

French National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CE 2

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Appeal in Noumea or Cour d'Appel; organized into civil, commercial, social, and pre-trial investigation chambers; court bench normally includes the court president and 2 counselors); Administrative Court (number of judges NA); note - final appeals beyond the Court of Appeal are referred to the Court of Cassation or Cour de Cassation (in Paris); final appeals beyond the Administrative Court are referred to the Administrative Court of Appeal (in Paris)

judge selection and term of office: judge appointment and tenure based on France's judicial system

subordinate courts: Courts of First Instance include: civil, juvenile, commercial, labor, police, criminal, assizes, and also a pre-trial investigation chamber; Joint Commerce Tribunal; administrative courts

Political parties and leaders

Build Our Rainbow Nation
Caledonia Together or CE [Philippe GERMAIN]
Caledonian Union or UC [Daniel GOA]
Future Together (l'Avenir Ensemble) [Harold MARTIN]
Kanak Socialist Front for National Liberation or FLNKS (alliance includes PALIKA, UNI, UC, and UPM) [Victor TUTUGORO]
Labor Party (Parti Travailliste) or PT [Louis Kotra UREGEI]
National Union for Independence (Union Nationale pour l'Independance) or UNI
Party of Kanak Liberation (Parti de Liberation Kanak) or PALIKA [Paul NEAOUTYINE]
Socialist Kanak Liberation or LKS [Nidoish NAISSELINE]
The Republicans (formerly The Rally or UMP) [interim leader Thierry SANTA]
Union for Caledonia in France

International organization participation

ITUC (NGOs), PIF (associate member), SPC, UPU, WFTU (NGOs), WMO

Diplomatic representation in the US

none (overseas territory of France)

Diplomatic representation from the US

embassy: none (overseas territory of France)

Flag description

New Caledonia has two official flags; alongside the flag of France, the Kanak (indigenous Melanesian) flag has equal status; the latter consists of three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), red, and green; a large yellow disk - diameter two-thirds the height of the flag - shifted slightly to the hoist side is edged in black and displays a black fleche faitiere symbol, a native rooftop adornment

National symbol(s)

fleche faitiere (native rooftop adornment), kagu bird; national colors: gray, red

National anthem

name: "Soyons unis, devenons freres" (Let Us Be United, Let Us Become Brothers)

lyrics/music: Chorale Melodia (a local choir)

note: adopted 2008; contains a mixture of lyrics in both French and Nengone (an indigenous language); as a self-governing territory of France, in addition to the local anthem, "La Marseillaise" is official (see France)

Economy

Economic overview

New Caledonia has 11% of the world's nickel reserves, representing the second largest reserves on the planet. Only a small amount of the land is suitable for cultivation, and food accounts for about 20% of imports. In addition to nickel, substantial financial support from France - equal to more than 15% of GDP - and tourism are keys to the health of the economy.

With the gradual increase in the production of two new nickel plants in 2015, average production of metallurgical goods stood at a record level of 94 thousand tons. However, the sector is exposed to the high volatility of nickel prices, which have been in decline since 2016. In 2017, one of the three major mining firms on the island, Vale, put its operations up for sale, triggering concerns of layoffs ahead of the 2018 independence referendum.

Real GDP growth rate

2% (2017 est.)

1.1% (2016 est.)

3.2% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 139

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$11.11 billion (2017 est.)

$10.89 billion (2016 est.)

$10.77 billion (2015 est.)

note: data are in 2015 dollars

country comparison to the world: 161

GDP (official exchange rate)

$9.77 billion (2017 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$31,100 (2015 est.)

$32,100 (2014 est.)

$29,800 (2012 est.)

country comparison to the world: 66

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 1.4% (2017 est.)

industry: 26.4% (2017 est.)

services: 72.1% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 64.3% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 24% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 38.4% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 18.7% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -45.5% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

coconuts, vegetables, maize, fruit, beef, pork, potatoes, bananas, eggs, yams

Industries

nickel mining and smelting

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 2.7%

industry: 22.4%

services: 74.9% (2010)

Budget

revenues: 1.995 billion (2015 est.)

expenditures: 1.993 billion (2015 est.)

Public debt

6.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

6.5% of GDP (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 203

Fiscal year

calendar year

Current account balance

-$1.469 billion (2014 est.)

-$1.861 billion (2013 est.)

country comparison to the world: 159

Exports - partners

China 59%, South Korea 14%, Japan 11% (2019)

Exports - commodities

iron alloys, nickel, cobalt, carbonates, essential oils (2019)

Imports

$2.715 billion (2015 est.)

$4.4 billion (2014 est.)

country comparison to the world: 157

Imports - partners

France 43%, Australia 12%, Singapore 12%, China 6% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, aircraft, coal, cars, packaged medicines (2019)

Debt - external

$112 million (31 December 2013 est.)

$79 million (31 December 1998 est.)

country comparison to the world: 192

Exchange rates

Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique francs (XPF) per US dollar -

110.2 (2017 est.)

107.84 (2016 est.)

107.84 (2015 est.)

89.85 (2013 est.)

90.56 (2012 est.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 82,111

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 28.67 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 142

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 275,002

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 96.02 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 180

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: well advanced telecoms sector; 3G & 4G network services; one of the highest smart phone adoption rates in the region; telecommunications sector is dominated by govt. owned company with a monopoly on fixed and mobile services, Internet and broadband access (2020)

domestic: fixed-line 29 per 100 and mobile-cellular telephone subscribership 96 per 100 persons (2019)

international: country code - 687; landing points for the Gondwana-1 and Picot-1 providing connectivity via submarine cables around New Caledonia and to Australia; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Pacific Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

the publicly owned French Overseas Network (RFO), which operates in France's overseas departments and territories, broadcasts over the RFO Nouvelle-Calédonie TV and radio stations; a small number of privately owned radio stations also broadcast

Internet users

total: 231,887

percent of population: 82.01% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 172

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 3 (registered in France) (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 15 (registered in France)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 12 (2019)

over 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 10

under 914 m: 1

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 13 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m: 5 (2013)

under 914 m: 8 (2013)

Heliports

8 (2013)

Merchant marine

total: 26

by type: general cargo 5, oil tanker 1, other 20 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 139

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Noumea

Military and Security

Military and security forces

no regular military forces; France bases land, air, and naval forces on New Caledonia (Forces Armées de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, FANC)

Military - note

defense is the responsibility of France

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Matthew and Hunter Islands east of New Caledonia claimed by France and Vanuatu