Facts about New Caledonia

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Settled by both Britain and France during the first half of the 19th century, the island was made 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 a period of 15 to 20 years will transfer an increasing amount of governing responsibility from France to New Caledonia. The agreement also commits France to conduct as many as three referenda between 2013 and 2018, to decide whether New Caledonia should assume full sovereignty and independence.

Geography of New Caledonia

Oceania, islands in the South Pacific Ocean, east of Australia
21 30 S, 165 30 E
total: 19,060 sq km
water: 485 sq km
land: 18,575 sq km
Area comparative:
slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries:
0 km
2,254 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
tropical; modified by southeast trade winds; hot, humid
coastal plains with interior mountains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Pacific Ocean 0 m
highest point: Mont Panie 1,628 m
Natural resources:
nickel, chrome, iron, cobalt, manganese, silver, gold, lead, copper
Natural hazards:
cyclones, most frequent from November to March
Environment current issues:
erosion caused by mining exploitation and forest fires
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

Population of New Caledonia

224,824 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 28.4% (male 31,818/female 30,503)
15-64 years: 64.9% (male 71,565/female 70,815)
65 years and over: 6.6% (male 6,773/female 7,772)
Median age:
27.8 years
Growth rate:
Infant mortality:
7.57 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 74.27 years
male: 71.29 years
female: 77.39 years
Fertility rate:
2.28 children born/woman
noun: New Caledonian(s)
adjective: New Caledonian
Ethnic groups:
Melanesian 42.5%, European 37.1%, Wallisian 8.4%, Polynesian 3.8%, Indonesian 3.6%, Vietnamese 1.6%, other 3%
Roman Catholic 60%, Protestant 30%, other 10%
French (official), 33 Melanesian-Polynesian dialects
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total : 91%
male: 92%
female: 90%


Country name:
conventional long form: Territory of New Caledonia and Dependencies
conventional short form: New Caledonia
local short form: Nouvelle-Caledonie
local long form: Territoire des Nouvelle-Caledonie et Dependances
Dependency status:
overseas territory of France since 1956
Administrative divisions:
none (overseas territory of France); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are 3 provinces named Iles Loyaute, Nord, and Sud
none (overseas territory of France); note - a referendum on independence was held in 1998 but did not pass; a new referendum is scheduled for 2014
National holiday:
Bastille Day, 14 July (1789)
28 September 1958 (French Constitution)
Legal system:
the 1988 Matignon Accords grant substantial autonomy to the islands; formerly under French law
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Nicolas SARKOZY (since 16 May 2007); represented by High Commissioner Yves DASSONVILLE (since 9 November 2007)
head of government: President of the Government Harold MARTIN (since 7 August 2007)
cabinet: Cabinet consisting of 11 members elected from and by the Territorial Congress
elections: French president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; high commissioner appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior; president of the government elected by the members of the Territorial Congress for a five-year term (no term limits); note - last election held 7 August 2007 when Harold MARTIN was elected following the resignation of Marie-Noelle THEMEREAU as president on 24 July 2007
Legislative branch:
unicameral Territorial Congress or Congres Territorial (54 seats; members belong to the three Provincial Assemblies or Assemblees Provinciales elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch:
Court of Appeal or Cour d'Appel; County Courts; Joint Commerce Tribunal Court; Children's Court


New Caledonia has about 25% of the world's known nickel resources. 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. Substantial new investment in the nickel industry, combined with the recovery of global nickel prices, brightens the economic outlook for the next several years.

$3.158 billion (2003 est.)
GDP per capita:
$15,000 (2003 est.)
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 2%
industry: 25.7%
services: 72.6% 
Inflation rate:
Labor force:
78,990 (including 11,300 unemployed) (2004)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 20%
industry: 20%
services: 60% 
17.1% (2004)
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 76.3%
hydro: 23.7%
other: 0%
nickel mining and smelting
vegetables; beef, deer, other livestock products
ferronickels, nickel ore, fish
Export partners:
Japan 18.4%, France 13.8%, Taiwan 12.8%, South Korea 12.6%, Spain 7.7%, China 6.3%, Australia 4.7%, South Africa 4.7%, Ukraine 4.1%, Belgium 4.1% (2005)
machinery and equipment, fuels, chemicals, foodstuffs
Import partners:
France 40.1%, Singapore 17.8%, Australia 9.6%, NZ 5.1% (2005)
Comptoirs Francais du Pacifique franc (XPF)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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