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Official Name - The Republic of Vanuatu
Land Area - 12,190 sq km - four main islands, eighty smaller islands
Population - 234,023 (2009 census), 262,045 (2013 estimate). Citizens are known collectively as ”ni-Vanuatu”
Capital City - Port Vila, Efate
Religion - Predominantly Christian
Languages -Official languages: Bislama (Pidgin), English and French. There are also approximately 115 local languages.
Currency - Vanuatu Vatu (Vt)
Exchange Rate - NZ$1 = 72 Vt (July 2013)
EEZ - 200nm
Political system - Unitary Republic based on Westminster Parliamentary model
National government - A coalition comprising seven political parties and independent MPs.
National legislature - Unicameral Parliament of 52 members elected for four-year terms; universal franchise with an element of proportional representation. The Prime Minister is elected by Parliament.
Last election - September 2012 (legislature)
Next election due - September 2016 (legislature); August 2014 (President)
Main political parties - Union of Moderate Parties (UMP); Vanua’aku Pati (VP); National United Party (NUP); Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP); the Greens Confederation (GC); People’s Progressive Party (PPP); Ground and Justice Party; Namange aute; Nagriamel Movement; Natatok Indigenous People’s Democratic Party (NIPDP); Vanuatu National Party (VNP); People’s Services Party (PSP); Iauko Group; People’s Democratic Progressive Party (PPDP); Vanuatu Republican Party (VRP), Hope Party
GDP - US$743 million (to June 2012)
GDP breakdown - Goods 30% Services 70%
GDP per capita - VT286,844 (NZ$3984) 2011
Real GDP Growth - 2.6% (June 2012)
Exports of Goods (FOB) - VT 5,073 million (2012)
Main exports - (Vanuatu Statistics Office November 2012 Highlights)
Principal export markets
Import of Goods (CIF) - VT 27,454 million (2012)
Main imports - (Vanuatu Statistics Office November 2012 Highlights)
Principal import markets
Current Account - US$46 Million
Inflation - 1.1% (2011)
Gross external debt (as percentage of GNI) - 17.5% (2011)
Government budget - Vt20.8 billion (2012)
Source: Global Trade Atlas
NZ Exports (FOB) - NZ$39 million
Medicaments, aircraft, wood (sawn or chipped), iron or non-alloy steel (flat rolled), petroleum oils, iron or steel structures, refrigerators and freezers.
NZ Imports - NZ$2.4 million
Services Trade - Offshore finance services, tourism, import of labour.
New Zealand Aid Programme allocation - NZ$28.8 million ($20m bilateral and $8.8m regional)
Vanuatu has an official population of around 250,000 people, three-quarters of whom 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.
Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu was governed by a joint British and French Condominium until independence, on 30 July 1980.
In recent years Vanuatu has been regarded – with qualification – as a ‘Melanesian success story’, because of improved stability and modest growth.
However it faces significant challenges with standards of education, health, housing and sanitation among the poorest in the Pacific. Much of the population lives a subsistence rural lifestyle.
New Zealand’s links with Vanuatu are long-standing, and strengthening through programmes such as the successful Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and tourism.
Artefacts and human remains of the Lapita people, the first inhabitants of the Vanuatu archipelago, have been unearthed near Port Vila on Efate Island and date back at least 4,000 years. The first European sailed through the area in 1606 and in 1774, Captain James Cook charted the islands which he named New Hebrides (after the Scottish islands). There gradually followed a range of missionaries, black-birders, whalers, sandalwood traders and colonists.
Britain and France established a Joint Naval Commission in the New Hebrides in 1887, and in 1906 the territory became the Anglo-French Condominium of the New Hebrides.
On 30 July 1980 the New Hebrides gained independence and became the Republic of Vanuatu. Father Walter Lini was the nation’s first Prime Minister.
Since independence, Vanuatu’s politics have been marked by frequent changes of leadership and common use of the no confidence motion to effect change.
Successive governments have been formed using multi-party coalitions, naturally lending itself to deal-making and fragmentation.
The most recent elections were held in October 2012 with the People’s Progressive Party forming a 12-party coalition. Sato Kilman was elected Prime Minister for the second time. However, on 21 March 2013 Kilman resigned as Prime Minister, pre-empting a motion of no confidence in him.
Green Confederation MP, Tahitian-born, Moana Carcasses Kalosil was on 23 March elected Vanuatu Prime Minister – the first non Ni-Vanuatu to hold the office.
The majority of Vanuatu’s population is engaged in rural subsistence agriculture. Vanuatu's formal economy is narrowly based on tourism, real estate, construction and agriculture, with the principal exports being coconut oil, copra, copra meal, kava, beef and cocoa.
Vanuatu’s economy continues to perform reasonably well, and grew at 2 percent in 2012 underpinned largely by its tourism industry. However it remains dependent on the international donor community and aid receipts for its continued economic development.
Vanuatu has a rapidly growing population, and increasing unemployment and difficulties associated with urbanisation, especially around the main towns of Port Vila (Efate) and Luganville (Santo).
Vanuatu has been removed from the OECD list of non-cooperative jurisdictions under the Harmful Tax Initiative, having committed to, but yet to substantially implement, the internationally agreed tax standard. Vanuatu has signed Tax Information Exchange Agreements with New Zealand and Australia, and a number of other countries.
Vanuatu is part of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA).
Vanuatu is a member of the Commonwealth, the Pacific Islands Forum, the World Bank, the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, and the International Monetary Fund.
As a member of the Africa Caribbean and Pacific group, Vanuatu enjoys preferential trade links with the European Union.
Vanuatu is a member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and hosts the MSG Secretariat which opened in Port Vila in May 2008. Vanuatu hosted the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in August 2010.
Formal diplomatic relations were established between New Zealand and Vanuatu following Vanuatu’s independence in 1980. A resident New Zealand High Commission was established in 1987 in Port Vila. Vanuatu has a Consulate-General in Auckland.
In 2006 Vanuatu was selected as one of five Pacific “kick-start states” for the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. Vanuatu contributes the most workers to the RSE scheme, with around 2800 in the 2012/2013 season.
New Zealand is also a significant contributor to the Vanuatu economy through its official development assistance programme, and through tourism.
Defence links between New Zealand and Vanuatu were established in 1986 under the New Zealand Defence Force Mutual Assistance Programme. The New Zealand Defence Attaché based in Port Moresby is accredited to Vanuatu.
The New Zealand Aid Programme supports Vanuatu through tourism, infrastructure and private sector development; basic education and scholarships; and law and justice. Particular efforts are being made to ensure that assistance benefits rural communities.
Vanuatu also benefits directly from New Zealand's regional aid programmes and through support to regional agencies such as the University of the South Pacific, the Pacific Community, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and the Forum Fisheries Agency.
For further information on the New Zealand Office Development Assistance programme please see:
New Zealand is the second largest source of visitors to Vanuatu, after Australia, with about 11,000 arrivals by air and many more visiting on cruise ships.
New Zealand does not have a reciprocal visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu.
New Zealand tourists are granted an initial tourist visa for 30 days on arrival. New Zealanders who wish to conduct business, work or live in Vanuatu should contact Vanuatu’s Department of Immigration for visa information.
All foreign visitors are required to hold a valid outward ticket and passports must be valid beyond six months of arrival in Vanuatu.
Ni-Vanuatu citizens wishing to visit or transit through New Zealand require visas. Visitors’ visas can be granted to a maximum stay of nine months within any 18-month period.
New Zealand is represented in Vanuatu by:
New Zealand High Commission
La Casa d'Andrea e Luciano
Rue Pierre Lamy
PO Box 161
Phone: +678 22933
High Commissioner Georgina Roberts
Vanuatu is represented in New Zealand by a Consul-General:
Mr McKenzie Kalotiti
P.O. Box 17427
Phone: +64 (09) 9186327 (office) +64 0212164722 (mobile)
The Ministry's travel website (www.safetravel.govt.nz) has comprehensive travel information including advice on the safety of travel to various countries. Enquiries may be directed to Consular Division at the following numbers:
Phone: (04) 494 8500
Fax: (04) 494 8506