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The Seafront beautification – “A symbol of friendship”

After 30 years of New Zealand in Vanuatu, the “Vanuatu Tourism Infrastructure Project – VTIP” funded by the New Zealand Government and partners marked as the most beautiful infrastructure project in Vanuatu is about to be launched.

Launching date is Friday, the 1st of September 2017, the project, in the aftermath of Cyclone PAM, has in a quite way inspired and elevated Vanuatu to rise out from being broken and torn to being beautiful.

Ms. Georgina Roberts, the New Zealand High Commissioner, talks about this project and how it has become a symbol of friendship between New Zealand and Vanuatu.

30 Years of New Zealand In Vanuatu

Ms Georgina Roberts acknowledged the cordial relationship between New Zealand and Vanuatu and says ” we share common interests based on Pacific issues, and New Zealand contribute to the Vanuatu economy with a significant investment in aid and development.

Our formal relationship began after Vanuatu gained independence from joint French and British administrations in 1980 and we opened a High Commission in Port Vila in 1987. This year 2017 will mark the 30th Anniversary of New Zealand in Vanuatu”

The biggest New Zealand Funded project in the Pacific

Ms Roberts told YTSNews “The biggest project to be ever funded by New Zealand is theVanuatu Tourism Infrastructure Project – VTIP which is now about 97% complete. All the current works have been already completed with just a few pockets here and there to polish up, this milestone project for the Vanuatu people, initiated and funded by the New Zealand Government is another bond between the Vanuatu people and the New Zealand people who are paying for all the works.

The rejuvenated seafront and portside precincts are full of amenities for tourists and locals alike to enjoy, including improved access to the sea. There’s a central pier observation platform, sea steps, a water taxi jetty, seawall promenade and walkways, markets buildings, playgrounds, coastal protection and re-nourished beaches, landscaping and artwork. The final works also being done is to allow the site to be accessable by wheelchair and of course the prams from Fatumaru Bay to Seafront”

Limited Public Facilities

Ms. Roberts says “Looking back at Port Vila, there was the issue of limited public facilities for both visitors and residents of Port Vila, and the New Zealand Government wanted to provide a solution for both the tourist and the residents of Port Vila especially the many pikinini’s who now see Seafront as their very own special place. We are very happy to see families enjoying the New Seafront as it was built purposely for their use and enjoyment.”

Cultural bonds

“New Zealand and Vanuatu both have very strong cultural backgrounds” says Ms Roberts “and we wanted to keep the cultural element visible always in the designs. The Seafront designs were very unique as it was designed to reflect cultural values and connect Vanuatu people to the project, traditional architecture, building materials, and references to a ceremonial mat – with weaving patterns and frayed mat edges – were incorporated into the design.”

Improving Tourism

Ms. Roberts stated “Vanuatu is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Pacific and Tourism is a very important to the Vanuatu economy.  The New Zealand Government and its people are very happy to have supported the efforts to Improving the tourist experience by enhancing the quality of products and services available, including developing public infrastructure.

“We see this project as a catalyst to improving the visibility of Vanuatu to the World and also getting more visitors from cruise ships to seafront and since we do have the two new Mama’s Handicraft there, this beautiful development will also prompt tourist to spend more money and thus help the economy”

The beginnings

Ms. Roberts recalls the early stages of VTIP saying “the New Zealand Government was interested in rehabilitating the seafront wall, and around 2012 we started the conversation with the Vanuatu Government on this. We finally engaged into agreements in 2014 and I for one was very fortunate to be among the many Vanuatu leaders who broke ground in 2015 for this project to happen”

“Tourism is a priority sector for the New Zealand Government especially with aid or assistance to our partners, and we always look to enhance and maintain our relationship with Vanuatu and this project has allowed us also to be visible to the Vanuatu people and it does tell a lot about the relations between the two countries”

Long Term Partnership

Ms. Roberts also assured the Vanuatu people that the “relations between the New Zealand Government and Vanuatu is long term given our 30 year presence in Vanuatu, and efforts and support towards Vanuatu is long term however there is always room for improvement. This relationship also provides New Zealand the ability to engage and address Vanuatu needs directly.

Vanuatu Strategic Tourism Action Plan – VSTAP

Ms Roberts also says “The New Zealand Government involvement with the Vanuatu Tourism Sector is a priority and New Zealand are also funding the Vanuatu Strategic Tourism Action Plan – VSTAP which is being implemented by the Vanuatu Government.

VSTAP is a plan that clearly outlines Vanuatu’s priorities for developing tourism and includes costs, priorities and potential funding and sources.  The Vanuatu strategic tourism action plan 2014-2018 has proved invaluable and been instrumental in helping international donors assist with tourism development following the devastation of Cyclone Pam in 2015.”

“As a Vocal Donor, especially with Tourism, New Zealand also seeks support from other donor partners to provide much needed assistance with Tourism projects at all levels in Vanuatu.”

RSE Scheme

“The RSE Scheme will be into it’s 10th year in 2017 and it is a transformative program which New Zealand is very happy for” Ms Roberts continued that “Vanuatu currently is the biggest supply in terms of workforce within the RSE program with 40% of the total RSE workforce coming from Vanuatu”

Ms Roberts says the “program has proved it’s value economically for both New Zealand and Vanuatu and has not only helped the workers but also helped businesses in New Zealand”

“The program has had a humbling effect to the New Zealand Government and its impact on peoples life’s is big. New Zealand is also fortunate as most of the RSE workers from Vanuatu now also support the ‘All Blacks’ but most importantly, this program helps the New Zealand economy which in return support Vanuatu.

Ms Roberts indicated that “The RSE program is a WIN-WIN for everyone, and for 30 years in Vanuatu, New Zealand is very happy on the progress and impact this program has on Vanuatu RSE workers and their families. We do know that a lot of money earned from the RSE program goes back to the families and we are very proud to be part of this”

Vanuatu

“being in Vanuatu has always been a privilege for me” say Ms. Roberts, “I always love going into the communities whenever I can, going into the islands and meeting the Vanuatu people. Supporting the PAM recovery efforts and the many engagements by New Zealand is a heartfelt experience for me.”

“I am really humbled to see the Vanuatu people take charge of the Seafront developments and seeing people running awareness to respect these developments and not litter nor vandalize does make me proud.”

Ms. Roberts concluded by saying “New Zealand in Vanuatu is very low profile and the relations between Vanuatu and New Zealand have never been more solid than 2017. It does tell me this project now completed, is indeed in good care and it is our symbol of friendship”