NEW CALEDONIA – Tourist numbers to New Caledonia increased by six per cent last year, providing a glimmer of hope in an economy struggling with the falling price of nickel. The vice president of the southern province, Martine Lagneau, says the island had 114,000 visitors in 2015, the highest on record and an increase of 7000 visitors since 2014. Most visitors came from nearby Australia and New Zealand, which recorded increases of 15.8 per cent and 25.8 per cent respectively. Lagneau says the number of cruise ship passengers, as well as visitors from Japan and mainland France, was also steadily increasing. In 2015, the tourism industry injected US$219 million into the territory’s economy, which has been struggling with a sharp drop in the price and demand for nickel, its key export.
TONGA SETS UP ANALYSIS THINK-TANK
TONGA – An independent Tongan think-tank has been formally established in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa. The Royal Oceania Institute’s (ROI) goals are to support and pursue Pacific-centered, ethical, fact-based research and analysis. It will also facilitate open dialogue on topics relevant to community, sustainable development, and regional relations. The Patron is His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Tupouto’a ‘Ulukalala. The Chair, Lord Fakafanua said stakeholders involved in Tonga need independent and verifiable, fact-based research and one of its goals is to empower people with unbiased information. The director, Tevita Motulalo, said the think-tank will work with government, private sector, faith groups, and other stakeholders, to help build broad-based, resilient and sustainable solutions.
company commits to nickel project
NEW CALEDONIA – The Swiss-based mining conglomerate Glencore has confirmed its commitment to New Caledonia’s Koniambo nickel plant. This follows talks between the French overseas minister, George Pau-Langevin, and the head of the conglomerate’s nickel division. A deal has been struck for tax relief for a power plant at Koniambo while Glencore has assured that no decision about its future engagement will be made before December. Glencore has a 49 per cent stake in theUS$7 billion Koniambo nickel plant which last year needed a furnace rebuild at a cost of about $60 million. Late last year, Glencore warned of a possible pull-out, saying the company was not in the business of burning cash. The Koniambo plant is majority-owned by SMSP, which belongs to the pro-independence northern province and is seen as a key element in efforts to re-balance the territory’s economy dominated by the southern province.
Aerial mapping proving invaluable
FIJI – A New Zealand engineer says unique aerial mapping technology used in Fiji after Cyclone Winston, could be hugely beneficial to the wider region. The technology was used on photographs of Fiji taken from a plane by the New Zealand defence force after the cyclone hit. It helped authorities quickly identify the worst affected areas and determine what aid was urgently needed. Engineer Peter Quilter said the technology mapped out the details in the photographs and helped authorities to make high-level decisions. He said it would be enormously useful for the Pacific, which remained vulnerable to natural disasters. “It’s not only helpful in the humanitarian response phase but in terms of understanding key vulnerabilities that apply throughout the Pacific, it’s going to reap huge, huge benefits down the track.”
China eyes Papua sago investment
WEST PAPUA – Chinese investors are keen to be involved in the sago processing industry in the Papua region. Indonesia’s investment co-ordinating agency, BKPM, said an initial investment of $US62 million dollars was being planned. Tabloid Jubi reported the BKPM chief Franky Sibarani saying there was a strategic value in the sago processing investment because the sector was categorized as labour-intensive and this development was expected to employ about 1500 workers in Papua. He said the Chinese investors were positive not only in terms of increasing investment in Indonesia, but also in taking an important role in Papua’s development. Sibarani said investment was being planned in more sago processing, wood processing and a biomass electricity power plant.