A French overseas territory in the Pacific, New Caledonia has seen deep divisions between its indigenous people the Kanaks, and its European population, most notably over the thorny question of independence.
Kanaks represent around 45% of the population while Europeans, most of whom were born in the territory, make up about a third.
Signed in 1998, the Noumea Accord set the timetable for a vote on the territory’s independence from France to be held by the end of 2018.
As well as having one of the region’s highest average incomes per capita, New Caledonia has around a quarter of the world’s nickel deposits.
The archipelago’s main island Grande Terre is ringed by a massive coral reef and is home to the capital, Noumea. Mountains divide the verdant east from a drier west. The territory boasts an abundance of plant and animal life.
Colonial buildings and fine beaches contrast with the infrastructure of the nickel industry.
- New Caledonia
- French overseas territory
- Population 259,000
- Area 18,575 sq km (7,172 sq miles)
- Major languages French (official), Melanesian and Polynesian dialects
- Major religionsChristianity, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy 74 years (men), 80 years (women)
- Currency Pacific franc