Last updated
Location of the commune (in red) within New Caledonia
Location of Belep
Coordinates: 19°45′00″S163°40′00″E / 19.75°S 163.6667°E / -19.75; 163.6667 Coordinates: 19°45′00″S163°40′00″E / 19.75°S 163.6667°E / -19.75; 163.6667
Country France
Sui generis collectivity New Caledonia
Province North Province
  Mayor Jean-Baptiste Moilou
69.5 km2 (26.8 sq mi)
 (2014 census)
  Density12/km2 (31/sq mi)
Ethnic distribution
  1996 census Kanaks 94.3%
Mestizos 5.4%
Vanuatuans 0.1%
Tahitians 0.1
Indonesians 0.1%
Time zone UTC+11:00
INSEE/Postal code
98801 /98811
Elevation0–283 m (0–928 ft)
(avg. 20 m or 66 ft)
1 New Caledonia Land Register (DITTT) data, which exclude lakes and ponds larger than 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) as well as the estuaries of rivers.

Belep (sometimes unofficially spelled Bélep) is a commune in the North Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. It has almost 900 people living on 70 km2.

The North Province is one of three administrative subdivisions in New Caledonia. It corresponds to the northern and northeastern portion of the New Caledonian mainland.

New Caledonia Overseas territory of France in the southwest Pacific Ocean

New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France, currently governed under the Nouméa Accord, located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, to the south of Vanuatu, about 1,210 km (750 mi) east of Australia and 20,000 km (12,000 mi) from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of Pines, and a few remote islets. The Chesterfield Islands are in the Coral Sea. French people, and especially locals, refer to Grande Terre as Le Caillou.

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.


The commune's territory is made up of the Belep Islands (also known as the Belep Archipelago), which lie to the north of New Caledonia's mainland. The two principal islands in the Belep Archipelago are Art Island (a.k.a. Aar) and Pott Island fr (a.k.a. Phwoc). The rest of the archipelago consists of the Northern and Southern Daos Islands, and several very small islets.

Art Island is the largest of the Belep Islands archipelago in New Caledonia. It has an area of 53 km². Its chief settlement is Waala, which is also the capital of Belep commune.

Archipelago A group of islands

An archipelago, sometimes called an island group or island chain, is a chain, cluster or collection of islands, or sometimes a sea containing a small number of scattered islands.

Islet Very small island

An islet is a very small island.

The administrative centre of the commune is the settlement of Waala, on Art Island, the largest of the Belep Islands. The local language is Nyêlâyu. [1]


The Belep Islands were named after a Kanak chief who settled there in ancient times. A Catholic mission was founded in Belep in 1856 by Pierre Lambert (1822-1903) but only lasted until 1863. The Marists later returned, and another priest Marie-Joseph Dubois (1913-1998), who lived there 1940-1941, wrote a history of Bélep in 1985.

Kanak people indigenous people of New Caledonia

Kanak are the indigenous Melanesian inhabitants of New Caledonia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southwest Pacific. According to the 2014 census, they make up 39.1% of the total population with around 104,000 people.

In 1879, following a widespread Kanak rebellion led by Ataï, some of the insurgents were temporarily moved from Grande Terre to the islands as punishment. The islands were the site of a leper colony between 1892 and 1898 during which time the islanders were exiled to Balade and suffered greatly. On their return, they were not allowed to reoccupy Isle Pott, taken by a colonial copra farmer, monsieur Mary, permitted by government authority. [2] It took the clans until the 1950s to buy it back. [3]

Leper colony

A leper colony, lazarette, leprosorium, or lazar house was historically a place to quarantine people with leprosy. The term lazaretto, which is derived from the biblical figure Saint Lazarus, can refer to quarantine sites, which were at some time also "colonies", or places where people affected by leprosy lived or were sent. Many of the first lazarettes were operated by Christian monastic houses. Leper hospitals exist throughout the world to treat those afflicted with leprosy, especially in Africa, Brazil, China and India.

The standard of living in Belep has risen since the 1950s, in common with other outlying parts of New Caledonia. However traditions and language are strongly maintained, only half the population can speak French, and few residents have any school certificates having only attended until the age of 12. [4] Around 1955, an airstrip was built in Waala and there are flights, but it is the least frequented AirCal route. [5] Passenger boats to Koumac and Poum are irregular. A modern medical clinic, serviced by a French doctor and nurses, was also built. Waala has the only primary school, shops, church, and post office. In 1961, Belep became a commune; its first mayor was elected in 1969. In the 1980s, when the movement for Kanak independence became violent (Les Evènements) some Belema migrated to the Mainland to escape political divisions. [6]

Belep struggles to obtain resources from the territorial government and there is still no schooling beyond primary level (children then have to attend boarding school on Grande Terre, in Poum for example). Settlement, disrupted by events in the 19th century, has concentrated clans in Waala. Alcoholism is a serious problem and there have been violent episodes, including the killing of a clinic staff member in 2003 [7]

In August 2016 a large bushfire ravaged Isle Art.


The economy is reliant on fishing, the main commercial activity. Around 40% of all registered business are in the fisheries sector. The reef fish Scomberomorus commerson, a mackerel, is caught and over 20 tonnes a year are sold. Scallops (Amusium japonicum balloti) are sold to SAS West Pacific Scallops, an Australian company, destined for Australia and Asia. The scallop trade is supported by the Northern Province and 20% by the clans. It has provided some training and prevented youth from migrating to Grande Terre. [8]

There are small cobalt reserves, exploited unsuccessfully in the 19th century. [9]

Belep has no tourist facilities and no accommodation for visitors.

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Bélep at Wikimedia Commons

Related Research Articles

Geography of New Caledonia

The geography of New Caledonia (Nouvelle-Calédonie), an overseas collectivity of France located in the subregion of Melanesia, makes the continental island group unique in the southwest Pacific. Among other things, the island chain has played a role in preserving unique biological lineages from the Mesozoic. It served as a waystation in the expansion of the predecessors of the Polynesians, the Lapita culture. Under the Free French it was a vital naval base for Allied Forces during the War in the Pacific.

Politics of New Caledonia

New Caledonia is a French sui generis collectivity with a system of government based on parliamentarism and representative democracy. The President of the Government is the head of government, and there is a multi-party system, with Executive power being exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Congress of New Caledonia. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Isle of Pines (New Caledonia) island in Nouvelle-Calédonie, France

The Isle of Pines is an island located in the Pacific Ocean, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas collectivity of France. The island is part of the commune (municipality) of L'Île-des-Pins, in the South Province of New Caledonia. The Isle of Pines is nicknamed l'île la plus proche du paradis.

The French special collectivity of New Caledonia is divided into three provinces, which in turn are divided into 33 communes. There is also a system of eight tribal areas for the indigenous Kanak people, and three decentralized subdivisions.

Houaïlou Commune in New Caledonia, France

Houaïlou is a commune in the North Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean.

Poum Commune in New Caledonia, France

Poum is a commune in the North Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The small town of Poum is located in the far northwest, located on the southern part of Banare Bay, with Mouac Island just offshore. Aside from French, the native language of the Kanak inhabitants is nêlêmwa-nixumwak, an Austronesian language spoken by about 1,100 people. British fishermen came to the islands in 1855 seeking sea cucumbers, and settled and intermarried, and this is reflected in the last names of some clan members and on gravestones. In the 1850s, a hundred Europeans lived on Mouac Island and John Henry Williams established a presence on Néba island

Touho Commune in New Caledonia, France

Touho is a municipality (commune) in the North Province of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. Touho lies on the east coast of the main island and is served by a road and an airfield.

Ouvéa Island island in New Caledonia

Ouvéa Island or Uvea Island is one of the Loyalty Islands, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The island is part of the commune (municipality) of Ouvéa, in the Loyalty Islands Province of New Caledonia.

Maré Island Commune in New Caledonia, France

Maré Island or Nengone is the second-largest of the Loyalty Islands, in the archipelago of New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean. The island is part of the commune (municipality) of Maré, in the Loyalty Islands Province of New Caledonia.

Flags of New Caledonia New Caledonian Flag

Two flags are in use in New Caledonia, an overseas territory of France. Up to 2010, the only flag used to represent New Caledonia was the flag of France, a tricolor featuring three vertical bands coloured blue, white, and red known to English speakers as the French Tricolour or simply the Tricolour. However, in July 2010, the Congress of New Caledonia voted in favour of a wish to fly the Kanak flag of the independentist movement FLNKS alongside the French tricolor. The wish, legally non-binding, proved controversial.. A majority of Neo-Caledonian communes, but not all, now fly both flags, the rest flying only the Tricolour.

Loyalty Islands Province Place in New Caledonia, France

The Loyalty Islands Province is one of three administrative subdivisions of New Caledonia encompassing the Loyalty Islands archipelago in the Pacific located northeast of the New Caledonian mainland of Grande Terre. The provincial government seat is part of the French territory of New Caledonia, at Lifou, which is 100 kilometres (62 mi) away. The Loyalty Islands are a collectivité territoriale of France. The province's 2014 population was approximately 18,297 inhabitants living on almost 2,000 square kilometres (770 sq mi). The native inhabitants are the Kanak and the Tavu'avua' peoples.

Flèche faîtière

A flèche faîtière is a carved rooftop spear or spire or finial that adorns Kanak houses, particularly the Great Houses of the Kanak Chiefs, in New Caledonia. The ceremonial carving is the home of ancestral spirits and is characterized by three major components. The ancestor is symbolized by a flat, crowned face in the centre of the spear. The ancestor's voice is symbolized by a long, rounded pole that is run through by conch shells. The symbolic connection of the clan, through the chief, is a base, which is planted into the case's central pole. Sharply pointed wood pieces fan out from either end of the central area, symbolically preventing bad spirits from being able to reach the ancestor. It evokes, beyond a particular ancestor, the community of ancestors. The flèche faîtière was depicted on a 2007 New Caledonian stamp.

Nyelâyu (Yâlayu), more commonly known as Nyelâyu, is a Kanak language of northern New Caledonia, spoken by approximately 2,000 speakers. There are two dialects that are not mutually intelligible. Pooc is spoken in the Belep islands, which are located just north of Grande Terre. Puma is spoken in the northernmost regions of New Caledonia in the areas around Poum in the west and Pouébo and Balade in the east.

2018 New Caledonian independence referendum referendum

An independence referendum was held in New Caledonia on 4 November 2018. Voters were given the choice of remaining part of France or becoming an independent country.