NEW CALEDONIA

Is this Paris in the Pacific?

You may think so strolling among the tres chic shopping district of Noumea. Away from the Capital this is definitely Melanesia.

New Caledonia is very close in proximity to Australia, 1,800 kilometres from Sydney, due east of Rockhampton in Queensland.

The main island is 400 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide, the largest after PNG and NZ. The terrain is mountainous with 24 rivers, the longest running 90 kilometres.

French is the official language with over 30 Kanak dialects also in use. Around a third of the 150,00 strong population are French, they hold all the public and major business positions.

The area has been inhabited for around 3,000 years and was named by Captain Cook in 1774. In 1853 Napoleon annexed the Island and it was used as a Penal Colony until 1897. The harbour was used as a Naval base during WW2 by the Allies and the people were officially declared French citizens afterwards. In 1953 they were allowed to vote.

The first stamp was issued in 1860 for local mail and had to be used with NSW stamps for overseas mail. General French colony stamps were used for a few years until unique issues were produced.

New Caledonia