Aussies fear being left behind in New Caledonia

Savannah Meacham and Andrew Brown |

Australians trying to leave New Caledonia have been told more delays are likely for flights.
Australians trying to leave New Caledonia have been told more delays are likely for flights.

An Australian man is running out of vital medication while stranded in riot-hit New Caledonia, with fears mounting he and his wife will be left behind.

Adrian Hawkins and his wife travelled from Cairns to the French Pacific territory in early May for holidays.

They had no idea there were deadly riots or how bad protests were becoming until driving south towards the capital Noumea, coming across road barricades, debris and masked protesters.

“It was a really harrowing experience,” Mr Hawkins told AAP.

Repatriated Australian travellers (file image)
Scores of Australian travellers have been evacuated from New Caledonia following deadly riots. (Patrick Hamilton/AAP PHOTOS)

The couple returned north for their safety but have been unable to get a timeline from the Department of Foreign Affairs as to when they will be evacuated.

“(The department) is asking us to stay put and not move. There’s no indication or planning on when we will leave,” he said.

“It is extremely frustrating.”

To make matters worse, Mr Hawkins requires thyroid medication and only has enough to last six days.

“I am completely reliant on this medication and once it starts to run out, I will start to suffer,” he said.

Even if the couple get a call about a repatriation flight, it will take hours to drive through roadblocks to the airport along an increasingly dangerous route.

“If we do get that call, we’re going to have to make the choice and we’re putting ourselves at risk,” he said.

The couple has fears of being left behind.

“At what point will the government turn around and say ‘Well we’re not sending any more repatriation flights’,” Mr Hawkins said.

The federal government has been working with French authorities to plan for more flights to leave the territory, but has been told no more would be able to take off on Thursday.

The government reassured Australians it was prepared to send more evacuation flights pending approval from French authorities.

Mr Hawkins said Australia was doing more to help stranded citizens than other nations, but wished the government had sent more flights earlier and assisted in safely transporting those stuck outside the capital.

He said the couple were trying to remain pragmatic, holding out hope of being put on a flight home.

French President Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron has arrived in New Caledonia in a high-profile show of support. (AP PHOTO)

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in New Caledonia on Thursday in a show of support, after at least six people died in riots.

The riots were sparked by France’s decision to allow French citizens who have lived in New Caledonia for more than 10 years to be eligible to vote in local elections.

It has been seen as an attempt to dilute the pro-independence movement.

A total of 187 Australians and their family members had returned from New Caledonia to Australia, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Wednesday.

A group of 103 people were repatriated to Brisbane on Wednesday, while 84 Australians and 24 others were flown in on Tuesday.

It’s estimated there are about 500 Australians in New Caledonia and about 300 had registered their interest with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in coming home.