New Caledonia is a French overseas collectivity located in the West Pacific, and forms part of the wider geographic area of Melanesia (which also includes Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea). New Caledonia lies 1,500 km west of Australia and 2,000 km north of New Zealand.
The New Caledonian archipelago comprises the Main Island, the four Loyalty Islands (Ouvéa, Lifou, Tiga and Maré), the Belep island group to the far north and the Isle of Pines to the south.
183,000 people live in the 14 municipalities making up the South Province of New Caledonia. The Province covers 7,303 km², with Noumea as its principal city.
As an overseas collectivity of France, New Caledonia's head of state is the French President. However, New Caledonia possesses a broad degree of autonomy and is administered on a day-to-day basis by local institutions: the Government, the Congress and the three Provinces (North, South and Loyalty Islands).
The South Province is headed by a president and the executive body. Cynthia Ligeard is the current president of the Province and is supported by three vice-presidents.
The Province is administered by an assembly comprising 40 councillors elected by universal suffrage. The councillors work within committees focusing on the Province's various areas of jurisdiction and meet in full assembly to enact legislation.
The South Province has 14 departments, responsible for the Province's various spheres of jurisdiction.
Powers and responsibilities
Article 20 of the Organic Law describes the powers and responsibilities of the Provinces as follows: "Each Province shall have jurisdiction in all matters that are not vested in the French or New Caledonian authorities by this Law, or vested in the municipal authorities by the legislation in force in New Caledonia."
These powers, known as general jurisdiction/authority, concern several key areas:
- Economic, Tourism, Rural and Maritime Development
- Cultural Affairs
- Youth, Sport and Recreation
- Health and Social Action
- Maritime Public Property