12 Aug 2011

Strife halts government restructure of New Caledonia airline

6:13 pm on 12 August 2011

The government of New Caledonia has frozen restructuring plans for the national airline following the shooting deaths of four young people on one of the Loyalty islands.

The killings arose out of a protracted dispute centred on Mare Island's airport - one of several being blockaded in a protest at air fare hikes.

Annell Husband reports.

"A government spokesperson says a religious delegation comprising representatives of various Christian denominations met with the government as well as with the French High Commissioner to New Caledonia before setting off for Mare earlier this week in order to try and restore peaceful behaviour. Sylvian Raffard says 30 people were wounded during the clash that left four dead, a dispute he says is really about ancient land issues. Mr Raffard says sorting out longstanding problems with Air Caledonie will have to wait until things have settled down and so for now the government's frozen its restructuring plan. He says it's the job of the customary authorities to sort out the land disputes but the religious delegation aims to get people talking to each other once mourning rituals and ceremonies have finished."