Among the least developed nations in the world, Vanuatu had the dubious distinction of being governed by an Anglo-French condominium prior to independence in 1980. Land, much of which had been alienated from customary control during colonial rule, was a key trigger in the political movements that led to independence. Like many Pacific islanders, ni-Vanuatu are “people of place.” Land is central to identity, kinship, and, for many, survival. Increasingly, however, land is a commodity that can be converted to cash, primarily through the use of leases, and a growing percentage of land, especially near urban and coastal areas, is being leased,subdivided, or brought under strata-title, sometimes for use and occupancy by ni-Vanuatu but more often for developers, foreign investors, and tourism ventures. In 2006, awareness of the rate of postindependence leasing and associated concerns were brought to the attention of the public by way of a National Land Summit. Resolutions were passed and promises made. To date, little has happened at the formal level. Life (and leasing) goes on. Nevertheless, there is evidence that ni-Vanuatu are learning to navigate the choppy waters of land development in a variety of ways and with different outcomes.
|Published - Aug 2011