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New Caledonia Travel Guide

Government

New Caledonia is a French associated territory with a high commissioner appointed by the president of France. In addition to the powers vested in France, the high commissioner has some control over international relations, foreign investment, immigration, television broadcasting, navigation and air traffic, finance, research, and higher education.

Each of three provinces has a regional assembly in charge of planning, economic development, social welfare, housing, culture, and environmental protection within its area. The 32 members of the South Province Assembly, 15 members of the North Province Assembly, and seven members of the Loyalty Islands Province Assembly are elected by proportional representation every five years.

Together the members of the provincial assemblies make up the 54-member Territorial Congress, which controls public health, social services, primary education, employment, sports and culture, public transport, highways, electricity, communications, natural resources, mining, foreign trade, taxation, and the territorial budget. Under the Nouméa Accord, congressional president has replaced the high commissioner as head of government. The territory's executive council consists of 10 ministers chosen by the president. The Nouméa Accord also created a Customary Senate composed of 16 Kanak high chiefs which must be consulted on traditional matters.

Local government is organized into 33 communes, each with an elected mayor and municipal council. The communes are grouped into four administrative subdivisions, with headquarters at La Foa, Koné, Poindimié, and Wé (Lifou). Nouméa has a separate municipal government. In the French system, civil servants comprise an elite class not seen in English-speaking countries, and most government departments are headed by professionals seconded from France. The appointed bureaucrats running the subdivisions can override the decisions of local councils and mayors.

Everyone born in New Caledonia is legally a French citizen and can vote in French presidential elections. Two deputies are elected to the French National Assembly, one from the east coast of Grande Terre and outer islands, one from the west coast and Nouméa. A senator, elected by the municipal and provincial councils, is also sent to Paris.