NZDF rescue flight approved for stranded Kiwis in New Caledonia, leaving in next hour

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has confirmed the New Zealand Defence Force has been given clearance by French authorities to leave for New Caledonia, where around 250 New Zealanders have been trapped amid ongoing riots and looting. 

Peters says the C-130 Hercules will leave around 12.30pm. It will have the capacity to collect 50 people. 

"New Zealanders in New Caledonia have faced a challenging few days - and bringing them home has been an urgent priority for the government," Mr Peters said. 

Peters said New Zealand is working with Australia and France and there will be additional flights in the coming days. 

"Today's flight will carry around 50 passengers with the most pressing needs from Noumea to Auckland. Passengers for subsequent flights will be prioritised by consular staff."

Mike Lightfoot, who's with 51 other New Zealanders at Hotel Chateau Royal, told Newshub earlier today that some people at the hotel had been told to get ready to leave. 

"They are making contact with those most in need to get them out first."

"We are excited that something is happening." 

However, Lightfoot said the situation has become increasingly frustrating and questions why the NZDF hasn't been able to get into the country and do evacuations sooner. 

"We have Magenta Airport which is 15 minutes from the city. The French military have been landing at this airport daily.

"French police have told me the road from Majenta to Noumea is clear. So I’m asking why is the French government not letting New Zealand in? Why are they not allowing us to fly a plane up here? What is the reasoning?"

New Caledonia descended into violence last week after Paris voted to change voting rules. The changes would allow more French residents to vote in local elections, a move indigenous Kanak say will weaken their influence. 

Six people, including two French police officers and four young Kanak, have been killed in the violence. 

In recent days, security forces have been trying to clear roadblocks set up by protestors that have restricted access to the international airport. 

The NZDF's C-130 will be landing at the domestic airport at Magenta. 

More than 200 people have so far been arrested and an additional 1000 French police and military have been flown in to bolster the 1700 personnel already in the territory.