INTERVIEW. For the city of Nouméa, “the abuses that have been committed represent at least eight billion”, estimates Mayor Sonia Lagarde

INTERVIEW. For the city of Nouméa, “the abuses that have been committed represent at least eight billion”, estimates Mayor Sonia Lagarde
INTERVIEW. For the city of Nouméa, “the abuses that have been committed represent at least eight billion”, estimates Mayor Sonia Lagarde

The cost of the damage suffered since mid-May by the city of Nouméa is provisionally estimated at eight billion CFP francs. The municipal council which was held Thursday evening was an opportunity to see the impact of the riots. The day after the session, interview with the mayor, Sonia Lagarde,

The Nouméa municipal council took place this Thursday evening. He approved the administrative accounts for the year 2023. But after the wave of violence and destruction that the first Caledonian city has just experienced, great uncertainty hangs over municipal finances. Interview.

NC the 1st : Can you draw an initial assessment of what the destruction will cost? ? Can we encrypt it? ?

Sonia Lagarde : All the abuses that were committed in the city today represent eight billion [de francs CFP]. This includes the schools that burned, the two media libraries, the Rivière-Salée service center, the 57 out-of-service video surveillance cameras, several dozen vehicles, part of our municipal workshops, the roads which are very damaged… The list is relatively long. We are in the process of taking stock of all this, checking with insurance and experts. But at the very least, it’s eight billion.

>> READ ALSO : a look back at ten key events since the start of the crisis

Are there plans to rebuild, repair, what was destroyed ?

S.L.: There is a priority before us, that of repairing the roads, already. There were dams and fires, the bitumen melted… The other priority is obviously to rebuild the schools. Because we are prioritizing what we will be able to do : roads, and schools. The rest will come later, when we have enough to do the necessary work again.

In the short term, what happens to students who no longer have school ?

S.L.: We still encounter difficulties in the northern districts, in particular Rivière-Salée and the Ducos area. Schools burned. We are not in a position today to be able to relocate the children. The start of the school year will be staggered, with educational monitoring for children who do not go to school. We hope to be able to “relocate” them to other establishments. It is not so simple.

What is the impact on the city’s finances and its employees? ?

S.L.: Our finances are at their lowest, since New Caledonia is in suspension of payments. The municipalities receive funds each month from New Caledonia. But as New Caledonia no longer has any treasury, nothing is arriving in the municipalities.

We have in hand today, I will tell you very frankly, 800 million.

Sonia Lagarde, mayor of Nouméa

With nearly 1,800 agents, salaries cost around 650 million per month. 650 million with charges. We will be able to pay the month of June, the month of July, without being able to pay the Cafat social charges. And everyone is in the same boat. Not just the commune of Nouméa, the other communes too.

In this context, what visibility do you have for the rest of the year ?

S.L.: New Caledonia should pay us what it owes us, every month. She is unable to do so today. The situation is dramatic. The expectation is there. It’s an extremely complicated situation and we have no long-term vision.

What is the situation of the Municipal Social Action Center?

S.L.: The CCAS is essential. This is where we have staff who carry out social actions, often towards elderly people, disabled people… We regularly follow between 400 and 500 per month. People who are truly in precarious circumstances. We help them every month. We also have basic aid, what we call food stamps.

Food vouchers and all aid combined cost the CCAS of Nouméa around six million per month. We had to stop them [jeudi]. We no longer have the means.

Sonia Lagarde, mayor of Nouméa

>> READ ALSO : the city of Nouméa suspends its food aid due to lack of budget

How do you see the future for New Caledonia?

S.L.: With the abuses that have been committed, an entire population has no other option than to move towards extreme precariousness. Those who are behind all this must ask themselves one question: is this what we wanted? ? Put our populations, all ethnic groups combined, in this precarious situation? We are in a situation where I don’t know if New Caledonia will be able to recover.

I hope that as quickly as possible, we will stop all this. Let’s sit around the table and start discussions. Let us have this transparency to know what everyone wants. The perspective of the future is to move forward, not to destroy. The path to peace, the path to possibility, is before us. It’s so much easier to destroy than to build.

Summary in this report by David Sigal and Christian Favennec




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