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Mont-Dore (Municipality, New Caledonia, France)

Last modified: 2014-04-27 by ivan sache
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Flag of Mont-Dore - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 15 June 2005


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Presentation of Mont-Dore

The municipality of Mont-Dore (25,683 inhabitants in 2009; 643 sq. km; municipal website) is one of the four municipalities forming Greater Nouméa (Nouméa, Mont-Dore, Dumbéa, Paèta), which group 60% of the population of New Caledonia. Mont-Dore is named after the Mont Dore mountain (772 m a.s.l. located south-east of Nouméa.
From 1947 to 1961, Mont-Dore was governed by a Regional Commission; it was succeeded by a Municipal Commission, active from May 1961 to May 1967, when Mont-Dore was eventually granted a full municipal status.

Mont-Dore is located in the southernmost part of the Grande Terre (the main island constituting New Caledonia). The territory of the municipality is divided by the Chaîne, the mountain that divides the island longitudinally, and watered by several brooks (locally called creeks) and two big rivers, the Coulée and the Rivière des Pirogues, used in the past to transport lumber. Mont-Dore is one of the largest municipalities in New Caledonia but most of its territory, especially south of the Mont Dore, is uninhabited. The vegetation is poor because of the mining industry. Most of the inhabitants are of European origin, except the three tribes of Île Ouen, living on Ouen island, Saint-Louis and Conception. Since the end of nickel and chromium extraction, concessions have been granted to natives in order to reclaim the land and to set up market gardens. However, most inhabitants of Mont-Dore work in Nouméa.

The reduction (a place for training natives newly converted to the Roman Catholic religion) of Conception was founded in October 1855 by Father Montrouzier for migrants from Balade and Pouébo and for locals from Touho and Wagap. It was the main base for further missionary settlements on the island. The first agricultural trials in New Caledonia were made in Conception, with a coffee plantation, 200 sheep, 20 goats and two oxen. However, the soils were poor and the Saint-Louis reduction was set up in 1856, first near the mouth of river Thy, later uphill. Transporting water uphill was tedious and Father Vigouroux, founder of Saint-Louis, decided to dig a canal and create a 8 m high waterfall in order to irrigate the plantations located in the plain. A waterwheel, a sawmill and a grainmill were built in Saint-Louis in 1862, forming the first industrial center in New Caledonia. Sugarcane plantations and a sugar house were set up in 1868. The factory had several furnaces and five huge boilers placed under a provisory straw roof; a 10 m high square chimney was added to the factory. A rum distillery was opened in 1875. Rice was also grown in Saint-Louis and processed by a hulling mill. Mountain rice initially grown was soon replaced by high-yielding flooded rice, of better quality.

The camp of Prony was opened in 1865 by the penitentiary administration for the exploitation of lumber, cut and shipped to Nouméa by sea. The Caledonian Forestry Society was founded in 1900 in order to export the trees from the Rivière des Pirogues to Australia. From 1900 to 1920, more than 10,000 cubic meters of woods were exported, especially kaori, used to make matches.
In 1873, the colonist Pierre Coste found a "green stone" on Mont Dore; the stone was garnierite, that is nickel ore. Nickel was then rare and overpriced; the first nickel mine in Mont-Dore was opened by John Higginson (1839-1904).
The barrage of Yahouè was built in 1875 in order to supply Nouméa with water from the Rivière de Yahoué. The building of the water main required the digging of a 12 km long trench and was inaugurated on 2 January 1877.
In 1880, prospecting was done everywhere in Mont-Dore. The Lucky-Hitt mine, located near Plum, yielded some 10,000 tons of chromium; from 1883 to the 1900s, cobalt was extracted from the Mont Dore.
The development of Nouméa required more and more building materials. The Imbaut brickyard was built in l'Escale, with two ovens. Bricks stamped "Mont d'Or", of excellent quality, were shipped to Nouméa on barges. The Limousin dairy farm was set up in Pont-des-Français in 1902 and produced up to 120 liters of milk per day. A brewery was opened in La Coulée in 1905.

Ivan Sache, 15 June 2005


Flag of Mont-Dore

The flag of Mont-Dore is white with the municipal arms (Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, 26 January 2001). The flag is used for special occasions; otherwise, it is kept by the Fire Brigade.

The arms of Mont-Dore are prescribed by Deliberation No. 53, adopted on 11 December 1984 by the Municipal Council. The arms, designed by a Municipal Coucillor, Marcel Laffont, were approved on 12 October 1984 by the National Heraldry Commission.
The arms are "Per fess, 1. Azure a mound or cantonned with the stars of Crux Australis of thesame on a sea azure wavy argent, 2a. Sable a gold mine's wagon, 2b. Gules a monstrance-axe or. The shield supported dexter by a swordfish argent and sinister by a porpoise of the same. Beneath the shield a scroll or inscribed with 'MONT DORE' in letters sable."

The upper part of the shield represents Mont Dore (lit., Gold Mount) over a blue sea with white waves. The Crux Australis recalls that the municipality is located at the southern end of New Caledonia.
The wagon in the lower left part of the shield recalls that the first nickel mine in New Caledonia was exploited in Mont Dore (then written Mont d'Or) in 1873.
The lower right part of the shield shows a monstrance-axe whose upper part is made of jade from the Ouen island. This must refers to evangelization of the natives, which started in Mont-Dore.
The supporters symbolize sea activities (big-game fishing, tourism...)

Pascal Vagnat & Ivan Sache, 15 June 2005