NEW CALEDONIA – A Chinese company has secured the contract to dispose of the wreck of the container ship Kea Trader which ran onto a reef off New Caledonia last July. The ship’s owner said it had hired Shanghai Salvage Company to remove the wreck which in heavy seas broke up and split into two. The Kea Trader ran aground in as yet unexplained circumstances on the Durand Reef near Mare on a voyage from Papeete to Noumea in July. The nearly new Maltese-flagged vessel was emptied of its fuel in subsequent weeks. Most of its cargo was then offloaded in a lengthy and costly operation in the hope of refloating the nearly 200 metre long ship. However, this failed and it was then announced that the ship would be scrapped.
THOUSANDS PROTEST PENSION REFORMS
FRENCH POLYNESIA – Thousands of people in French Polynesia have held a rally in Papeete as part of general strike to stop the government’s pension reform. Union organisers said 6000 people joined the demonstration while police put the figure at 2500. They insisted that the reform to hike the retirement age from 60 to 62 be abandoned. The government wants the assembly to adopt it on Thursday. The unions have warned that on the day they will block the road access to Papeete from both the east and west. The government has said it had no option but to change the eligibility criteria to secure the system’s survival.
AID FUNDING FOR ELECTRICITY NETWORK
TONGA – New Zealand is to give Tonga US$7.9 million so it can complete an upgrade of Nuku‘alofa’s electricity network. Foreign Minister Winston Peters said this funding was for the first stage of a five-year project to improve the reliability, resilience, and safety of the electricity supply for more than 2000 households and businesses. He said it was in addition to $US5 million in additional emergency funding for repairs following Cyclone Gita, announced earlier today. Mr Peters said the network upgrade would deliver reduced line losses, reduced emissions from diesel generation, and generate savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
NEW HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR TONGA
TONGA – New Zealand has appointed Tiffany Babington as New Zealand’s new High Commissioner to Tonga. The announcement has been made by foreign minister Winston Peters who said Babington would lead the delivery of US$47 million of investment over three years. The investment will be focused on the areas of energy, policing, justice and education. Babington had previously been posted to Vanuatu and Italy, and worked on global development, Pacific regional, Niue and Tokelau issues.
- A team led by New Zealand investigator, Andrew McGregor, looking into last week’s Cessna 172 crash is still trying to get to the wreckage site at Mt Delaikoro on Vanua Levu in Fiji. The team, assisted by the army, police, fire service personnel and villagers, has been struggling to reach the rugged mountainous site and recover the wreckage, due to continuing heavy rain. Two people died in the crash.