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Our relationship with Vanuatu

New Zealand and Vanuatu share common interests based on Pacific issues, and we 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 (it was once called New Hebrides) and we opened a High Commission in Port Vila in 1987.

New Zealand’s main contributions to the Vanuatu economy are through its official development assistance programme and tourism. New Zealand is the second largest source of visitors to Vanuatu, after Australia, with more than 15,000 New Zealanders visiting Vanuatu in 2014.

Defence links betweek the two countries were set up in 1986. The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) currently provides training and an NZDF engineer is based in Port Vila with the Vanuatu Mobile Force.

Most of Vanuatu's 262,000 population – called ‘ni-Vanuatu’ – live in rural areas. It is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country, with over 115 spoken languages – including the three national languages of Bislama (Pidgin), English and French The population is growing quickly, and the country has ongoing challenges with services such as education, health, housing and sanitation. 

Vanuatu’s 83 islands extend more than 1,000 kilometres north to south between the equator and the tropic of Capricorn. Port Vila, on the island of Efate, is the capital.


2014 statistics

Total trade in goods 

$36.9 million


Exports to Vanuatu

$35  million

Top exports: medicines, wood, poultry and offal. 

Imports from Vanuatu

$1.9 million

Top imports: meat, fruit, milling products

GDP (2013)

US$997 million


GDP per capita


(NZ GDP per capita is US$41,500)

GDP growth 

2.9 %


In 2014 Vanuatu was our fifth largest trading partner in the Pacific. Economic growth is likely to be focused on the services sector as Vanuatu continues to grow its tourism industry. The tourism sector is a key driver of growth accounting for 20 percent of Vanuatu’s economy and 26 percent of its formal workforce.


We're supporting Vanuatu to reach its economic potential by growing the valuable tourism sector and improving marine transport. We're also helping to improve the quality of education and justice. Recently New Zealand has also supported Vanuatu to recover from Cyclone Pam.

Find out more about our aid programme in Vanuatu  

Find out more about our support for Cyclone Pam recovery (external link)

Ni-Vanuatu can come to New Zealand to work in our horticulture and wine industries under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme. The money they earn and send home is an important source of income for Vanuatu.

Find out more about the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (external link) 


Recent official visits

New Zealand to Vanuatu

August 2013 Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully visited Vanuatu as part of the Pacific Mission.

February 2013 Trade Minister Tim Groser visited Vanuatu and met with Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman.

May 2012 Associate Minister of Education & Corrections Dr Pita Sharples visited Vanuatu to attend the Forum Education Ministers Meeting.

June 2011 Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully visited Vanuatu with a delegation of business representatives, non-governmental organisations, RSE employers, government officials and media. 

Vanuatu to New Zealand

February 2015 Minister of Internal Affairs Charlot Salwai led a delegation to New Zealand for an RSE visit.

March 2014 Education Minister Bob Loughman led a delegation to New Zealand for the fourth International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

June 2013 Lands Minister Ralph Regenvanu led a delegation to New Zealand to explore geothermal energy programmes.

April 2013 Vanuatu Parliamentarians Ralph Regenvanu, Tony Nari, Alfred Maoh, Charlot Salwai, Havo Moli, Kalfau Moli, John Tesei Nawai and Arnold Prasad attended the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum.



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