STORY: Plumes of smoke filled the skies over the French-ruled Island of New Caledonia, where France will declare a state of emergency on Wednesday.

Rioting and unrest continued in the territory after Paris approved changes to voting rules.

Several indigenous Kanak people were killed in the violence, a spokesman for the Pacific Island's president said, citing the police.

The French government later announced that a police official had died from a gunshot wound.

The state of emergency will give authorities additional powers to ban gatherings and movement around the island. Police reinforcements have also been sent to the island.

The new voting bill, which will allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections, was backed by lawmakers in Paris in a vote on Wednesday.

It's a move some local leaders fear will dilute the indigenous Kanak vote.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin spoke to French Radio RTL after the bill passed the vote.

"I think what is important to say today is that calm must absolutely be restored. There are hundreds of injured in New Caledonia, dozens of houses and businesses burned, torched. We have sent the special police forces in."

Residents have reported gunfire, burning cars and buildings as protestors, who witnesses say outnumber police, blockade the island's capital Noumea.

French President Emmanuel Macron has offered to hold dialog between New Caledonia's pro- and anti-independence camps.

The major pro-independence political group said in a statement on Wednesday it would accept Macron's offer and work towards an agreement.

New Caledonia is the world's third largest nickel producer, and residents have been hit by a crisis in the nickel sector, with one in five living under the poverty threshold.

The voting amendment is the latest flashpoint in a decades-long tussle over France's role in the mineral-rich island, which lies in the southwest Pacific, some 900 miles east of Australia.

The French government say this voting rule change is needed so elections would be democratic in the country's territory.

France annexed the island in 1853 and gave the colony the status of overseas territory in 1946.

It has long been rocked by pro-independence movements.