New Caledonia was established as a French colonial possession in 1853, and used as a penal colony. New Caledonia is of strategic importance to France, giving the nation a foothold in the Pacific in the face of growing Chinese influence.
New Caledonia is home to a quarter of the world’s known supplies of nickel — a vital electronics component — and is a foothold for France in the Pacific where China is increasing its influence.
On the final count, 56.4 per cent of people had rejected the proposition that New Caledonia become independent, a clear but smaller-than-expected victory for loyalists to the mainland.
While the territory has a measure of self-government, France retains control over defence, policing, the judiciary, monetary policy and foreign affairs.
French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the result as “a vote of confidence in the French republic, its future and its values.”
He added the French state would ensure “liberty, equality and fraternity for everyone”—hypocritical claims given the long and brutal history of French colonial rule in the Pacific, Africa and elsewhere.
New Caledonia is sometimes referred to in France as “the pebble” and is home to about 175,000 people.France has faced protests and calls for independence in several of its overseas territories, which are a legacy of the country’s colonial past.
New Caledonia’s economy is underpinned by annual subsidies from France to the tune of €1.3 billion ($US1.48 billion), while French companies retain significant economic interests.