The French High Commissioner in Noumea has taken exception with referendum plans in a New Caledonian town to decide whether to fly the Kanak flag next to the French flag.
Traditional leaders hoisted the Kanak flag outside the Bourail town hall this year but the mayor now wants the local public to vote in December on whether to keep it.
The High Commissioner, Vincent Bouvier, says the Bourail council vote to hold the plebsicite was flawed because of a lack of secrecy and furthermore choosing a flag is outside its competence.
Outside most public buildings, the pro-independence Kanak flag was added to the French tricolore five years ago in a compromise approved by Paris.
However, the 1998 Noumea Accord calls for a new flag to be chosen to express New Caledonia's identity and doesn't recognise the Kanak flag.
Disputes over what flag should fly led to a series of government collapses four years ago, prompting France to change the electoral law.