Devin Brown, Board member of the New Zealand Pacific Business Council | Ngā Tai a Kiwa had the opportunity to meet with and discuss the prosperity of Vanuatu with the Honourable Johnny Koanapo, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Ministers offer in charge of projects. Hon. Johnny Koanapo was in New Zealand to discuss with MFAT the different mechanisms for support as they look to the large regional players to assist with the development of Vanuatu. MFAT kindly arranged the meeting to enable dialogue between the private sector of NZ and the Vanuatu government.

New Zealand firms in Vanuatu have been relatively successful in recent times completing several large infrastructure projects inclusive of water front rehabilitation, new wharves and renewable energy projects. Also, in the export and import of fresh produce with a permanent establishment being sent up several years ago by, The Produce Company.

Key facets of this meeting were as follows:

Economic Overview:

  • Vanuatu has experienced a time of prosperous growth; circa 3% GDP per annum over the last 3 years
  • Government has achieved a degree of stability over the last 3 years versus its tumultuous history, however scheduled elections are forthcoming this year.
  • Tourism is still the main revenue driver in Vanuatu, however they do have an extensive agricultural sector, but lacks ability to export due to biosecurity compliance issues.

Tourism:

  • Has a strong Cruise Ship sector, but lacks infrastructure to support further growth.
  • To increase its main revenue stream Vanuatu are looking at establishing direct flights to New Caledonia, to target the European market and China to target the Chinese market.

Proposed Infrastructure Projects:

  • Vanuatu recognise the too truly expand their tourism base they require to make the other off shore islands of Vanuatu more accessible to tourists, to promote the growth of hotel and other facilities with the Vanuatu group. In addition, allow more accessibility to agriculture trade within Vanuatu and long term for export.
  • To enable this, they are seeking funding from Asian Development Bank, World Bank, JICA and China to enable the development and expansion of roading, airports, renewable energy and ports and water infrastructure.
  • In August 2018 ADB establish an office in Port Vila. To support the propose infrastructure spend other international funders are looking at establishing offices in Port Villa.
  • A link is provided, which is a good overview of proposed infrastructure developments; Vanuatu Infrastructure Strategic Investment Plan (VISIP) 2015-2024 | The PRIF

Expansion of Agriculture:

  • Vanuatu look to decrease their reliance on tourism by expanding its agriculture sector with reasonable amounts of fertile land sea to draw upon. Unfortunately, they struggle with compliance with biosecurity regulations, like many of the Pacific Islands countries.
  • On his trip to New Zealand the Hon Johnny Koanapo has reach out to the New Zealand government to aid with the establishment of a bio security department which can meet and maintain the biosecurity expectations of countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

Completed Infrastructure projects by NZ firms:

  • The Parliamentary secretary was highly complementary of the New Zealand firms and the quality of work they completed to date. Noting they had a mixed bag of results overall under the international funder procurement process.
  • Part of the discussion centred on how the Government of Vanuatu could work with the international funders to ensure that similar results were achieved for forthcoming projects and that those who had proven themselves were rewarded by future work streams.

Vanuatu looks to be an exciting prospect in near future for New Zealand businesses, especially for those that have a proven track record of operating in the Pacific Region.

Devin Brown
Executive, New Zealand Pacific Business Council | Ngā Tai a Kiwa