March 10, 2010
New Caledonia Asks Australia For Reef Help
New Caledonia asked for help from Australia on Wednesday to protect the world's second biggest reef, according to AFP.
Senior officials said the country hoped for Australia's research and expertise to maintain the reef.
"Australia has long-standing experience in the management of the coral reef," High Commissioner (governor) Yves Dassonville told reporters in Canberra during a visit.
"We would like to seize the opportunity of your experience and exchange scientific information on research projects with regard to those two reefs, which are the largest in the world and which are essentially facing each other across the sea."
According to Dassonville, New Caledonia plans to set up joint management of the Australian and French economic zones, which reach across the Pacific from massive reefs on either side.
"It would be useful to establish a joint sustainable and agreed management approach for those two exclusive economic areas beyond the coral reefs," he said
The motivation is partly for New Caledonia's desire to become closer with its neighbors, including moves for full membership of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).
New Caledonia President Philippe Gomes said Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea are among all the countries that support the PIF bid by New Caledonia.
The group also proposed holding annual meetings with Australia in hopes to boost trade, education and cultural ties, as well as sharing expertise at fighting bushfires.
New Caledonia is increasingly moving towards independence with the referendum on self-rule due between 2014 and 2018.
The islands are located 900 miles east of Australia, and they have a population of about 227,000 people. The country holds about 25 percent of the world's nickel reserve, an industry that exports mainly to Japan and South Korea.
The delegation was the biggest ever sent to Australia by New Caledonia, as well as the first received by the country's prime minister.