Regional | Kanaky

‘Stay strong’ message from Kanaks in Hawke’s Bay to whānau in New Caledonia


Some indigenous New Caledonian people who came to Aotearoa for work say they can’t go home because the riots have cost thousands of jobs and make the nation not worth returning to.

This past week the Kanaks have been staying on a marae in Hawke’s Bay but have now moved into a backpackers hostel in Napier and will start work on Monday.

Despite their happiness at being together, hurt continues to gnaw at these Kanak, so far away from home.

Gofe-Fenepej Sibëkë is one of many Kanak in Hawke’s Bay. He says he is caught between feelings of distress and liberation at what is happening in his homeland.

“I feel sad but at the same time it is necessary to have what is happening. I am not angry but just anxious about our families,” he says.

Sibëkë is a 20-year old who moved to New Zealand for work, and he says he sees no point in returning home.

“Nothing is there for us to go back to. With the situation there thousands of people have lost their jobs. We feel really good here. People here are genuine and not judging us for who we are. At home we are not considered for employment, housing and more because we are Kanak.”

This past week, Sibëkë and a group of fellow Kanak were welcomed on to Kohupātiki Marae in Hastings, which played host to them.

They praise the hospitality that was shown to them during a time of worry.

“The marae experience was amazing. We felt the care and love from the Māori community along with the small New Caledonian community living here. Having a place to live and food for a week while keeping together as a group has got us back on our feet mentally as we were really stressed out at the unknown ahead.”

Many Kanak people are taking a stand against decisions made by the French government which they say are preventing their independance. Sibëkë, far away from his homeland, is saying to his and many families: “Stay strong.”

“To our families and our people home please keep safe and cherish your lives. The fight we are in is a noble cause. Our identity and culture is on the line but life is precious, so keep safe.”

The Kanak people have found employment in Hawke’s Bay in horticulture but in coming weeks are looking to find long-term work.