“Fortunately we won the referendum, but if we had lost we would have had to deal with it, because I don’t want to leave,” explains Ghislain Santacroce, a cattle rancher in Bourail on New Caledonia’s west coast.
The property of this 70-year-old man who hopes that his two sons will one day take over his farm, which extends to Moindou, south of Bourail, is recognizable by the large tricolor flag in the wind at the entrance, visible from the road. Biggest around, he said.
His house on top of a hill looks inland. Behind, we can see the turquoise blue of the lagoon. When asked how much land he owns, Santacroce jokes, “1,500 hectares, more at low tide.”
“Before I was in Thio, and I lost everything during the events of 84-85. My parents’ house, I was the one who burned. It was better to leave than to kill or be killed”, says Santacroce, remembering that his grandfather had arrived in 1870 as a convict to this east coast town.
Four decades have passed, but Ghislain Santacroce remains emotional as he tells it.
After this uprooting, the creator traveled the world, but eventually returned to settle in New Caledonia, simply moving from the east coast to the west coast. “The most beautiful country is ours”. It started with 600 hectares and gradually grew. “Whenever there were events, people sold.”
The “stockman”, the Australian name for herders commonly used in Caillou, also raises deer, imported animals that wreak havoc on the mainland.
“I catch between 800 and 1,000 deer a year,” he says proudly. Animals he keeps in the pasture before he sends them to the slaughterhouse and then sells them to an Alsatian wholesaler who specializes in hunting. A dangerous farm. “I was + bitten + (injured) by a reindeer and was hospitalized for 3 months”, he says.
In the farm’s harness room, 10 saddles found all over the world, from Arles to Texas, are suspended, but it’s in 4×4 buggy that he travels most often on the farm and herds cattle.
– “Screw this” –
At Karl Heinz Creugnet, a cattle breeder on 250 hectares in Boulouparis, horses still have a big place, mainly through racehorse breeding.
“I’m 57 years old, and from a very young age, we’ve always lived with this sword over our heads: independence, + you’ll be kicked out of here +”, says Creugnet.
“I’m mostly Caledonian, I’m French in second place and my place is here,” explains Creugnet, whose son Julien “hands over the farm.”
After Hurricane Ruby, which passed over Caillou two days after the self-determination referendum was won by the pro-France, the Creugnet family had a lot to do to lift all the fences that had been knocked down by the heavy rains.
With both feet in the river, a hat on their head to protect themselves from the scorching sun, the family members unroll the skeins of barbed wire from the branches. Eight Australian Cattle Dogs play in the water around the men at work.
As many Europeans settled on the west coast and nicknamed the “Caldoches” on the island, Creugnet has a long history with New Caledonia: “My great-great-grandmother landed on Bouraké beach, with a bag on her back and a lot number that she managed to explore “.
“I consider myself today on an equal footing with the Kanaks: they have their place and we have ours too and we have to stop looking at each other like hunting dogs, beating each other, today we have a country to build “, assures Mr. .Creugnet who believes that the main thing is to strengthen the economy.
“Our economy has to be rich to be able to talk about independence and we have to stop doing politics”, he concludes.