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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Expert Says Vanuatu Must Consider Land Lease Reforms
Biggest issue involves identifying proper landowners in disputes

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Nov. 22, 2012) – A specialist in land and governance issues in Vanuatu says restricting the leasing of land to customary determination could be one of the most effective pillars of land reform.

Siobhan McDonnell of the Australian National University recently worked as a Land Law advisor to Vanuatu’s Attorney General.

She has stressed the importance of land reforms expected to be considered by Vanuatu’s new parliament.

One of the reforms is to move the power for land dispute resolution to customary systems outside of the formal court system

Ms. McDonnell says one of the biggest problems in Vanuatu is identifying the right landowner group is involved in the lease.

"At the moment in Vanuatu, there’s very little scrutiny of that. So you have chiefs from separate islands who are leasing land on other islands. You have chiefs from the other side of the island leasing land belonging to another group of people. And there’s very little internal scrutiny to make sure that the right landowner custom group is involved in the negotiation process."

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