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In brief: News from around the Pacific

Wednesday 30 March 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Regional

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In brief: News from around the Pacific
Air Tahiti Nui's first Boeing 787 Photo: Boeing

Outbreak of flu in New Caledonia; back in the air for Tahitians; and new president for French territory

Influenza outbreak in New Caledonia

New Caledonia is being hit by a flu epidemic as the community Covid-19 outbreak is on the wane.

The latest flu strain was detected three weeks ago and has spread rapidly among all age groups.

In the Loyalty Islands alone more than 1,000 people have the flu - those infected complaining of fever, cough, breathing problems and aches.

Health authorities advise people to seek medical assistance to help detect serious cases in a population already weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A vaccine for the current flu strain is expected to be delivered in April.

Tahiti airline's Auckland flight plan

Air Tahiti Nui has brought forward its plan to restart regular passenger flights from Papeete to Auckland to May 4.

The carrier originally wanted to resume the service in July when New Zealand said it would open its borders for those travellers who don't need a visa.

The flights were stopped two years ago because the Covid-19 outbreak prompted border closures regionwide.

The new flights will be codeshared with Air New Zealand, which has been selling tickets on the route.

Travel to New Zealand will be restricted to fully vaccinated travellers.

Air Tahiti Nui's flights to Asia remain suspended.

Meanwhile, regular scheduled flights between New Caledonia and New Zealand are set to resume on May 8.

Aircalin said it would restart its service between Noumea and Auckland with a weekly flight but in June increase the frequency to two flights a week.

Air links had been cut two years ago when the Covid-19 pandemic prompted border closures across the region.

The resumption of flights had not been expected until October but high vaccination rates in New Zealand and the rapid spread of the Omicron variety have brought plans forward.

Last month, New Caledonia re-established air links with Australia.

Muli'aka'aka to become Wallis & Futuna president

The assembly of Wallis and Futuna has unanimously elected Munipoese Muli'aka'aka as its new president.

He was the only candidate for the post after the election of a new 20-member assembly on March 20, marked by a turnout of more than 84 percent.

The previous assembly president Nivaleta Iloai did not run.

Muli'aka'aka, who is in his third term in the assembly, has been working as an official in the territory's maritime administration.

Challenges facing Wallis and Futuna include the high cost of living and the departure of many young people struggling to find career opportunities.

The territory includes the French republic's only three kingdoms, with the kings being part of the French territorial administration, which is led by a prefect.

Weaker fishing hooks plan dismissed

A proposal for fishermen to use weaker hooks to reduce whale injuries has been dismissed by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council.

The council, made up of regional marine experts, concluded that the strategy was ineffective during a discussion last week.

According to the council, the strategy would make fishing operations more difficult and that cutting off fishing lines from hooked whales was a better approach.

The strategy proposes that longline fishermen use lighter hooks that allow accidentally hooked whales to untangle themselves more easily.

Promoting tech to youth

A nationwide campaign is underway in New Zealand to promote tech careers to Pasifika youth.

The campaign involves panel events of Pasifika guest speakers who work in the industry.

According to one of the event organisers Naomi Tavau, Pasifika are heavily under-represented in tech careers.

She said there was a lack of awareness about the technology sector and the careers it offered.

"The Pasifika and Maori representation is less than 7 percent and of that less than a third are women. So we really are trying to promote and raise awareness of the opportunities that tech offers as a career."

Samoan prisoners manage to escape cells

Samoa's Ministry of Police and Prisons has confirmed prisoners at three cell blocks were able to escape from their cells but none got out of the Tanumalala Prison compound.

Each cell block houses up to 50 prisoners with several guards stationed outside each block.

Deputy Police Commissioner Auapa'au Logoitino Filipo told Radio Polynesia more than 60 police and fire and emergency services officers responded to the call for help from the prison.

All prisoners have been accounted for and Auapa'au says police have launched an investigation.

Its been more than a month since prisoners were allowed visitors because of the nationwide covid lockdown.