Mission accomplished - thanks to those who replied - these forums
are a great resource.
Just to close the loop on this..and in case it is of use to anybody else buying
or selling a boat in the Pacific Islands.
Your own experience might differ, but here is how things unfolded for me.
1. Austrian Seller sailed Fiji to New Caledonia, checked in and proceeded to send de-registration application to Austria.
2. NZ Buyer registered ship New Zealand
(after providing certified translation of certificate of de-registration). I registered in company name to make future transfers easier.
3. Seller requested exemption from sales tax from customs
as not being sold to or by a NC resident. Exemption, which is discretionary, took about 10 days due to change of personnel/responsibilities.
3. Buyer travelled to New Caledonia to basically replace the customs check-in documents with new one to show the new registration details. Customs made copies of new registration papers and Bill of Sale. (This could have been done by an agent, but part of the sale, was an instructional sail to Vanuatu, and I prefer to iron out kinks face to face.
4. No problems with clear out under new registration, and I had a 12 month timeframe to depart.
I found the NC and NZ officials to be both friendly and easy to work with and was completely upfront about what I was trying to achieve. None of the steps was difficult - even with my school
french, and I had a superb time on the sail up to Vanuatu. Fiji, Vanuatu and Australia
would have all wanted sales tax on the transaction, but New Caledonia was yacht friendly and didn't just put their hand out for tax revenue.
Next the fun part...bringing it back to NZ..that'll be a different post..