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Our relationship with Vanuatu

New Zealand and Vanuatu have a good and long-standing relationship based on people to people links and strengthening economic ties. The New Zealand High Commission has recently commemorated 30 years in Vanuatu. We contribute to Vanuatu’s development through our significant investments. New Zealand provides NZ$82 million from 2016/17 to 2019/2020. Vanuatu is also the largest sending country under New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) programme, which supports New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industry.

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, RSE remittances and tourism. New Zealand is the second largest source of visitors to Vanuatu, after Australia, with more than 11,000 New Zealanders visiting Vanuatu in 2016.

Under the RSE programme, over 27,000 visas have been issued to Ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers over the last ten years. These workers have contributed to the growth and success of New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industry, with transformative effects on their livelihoods and the well-being of their communities.

Volunteer Service Abroad (external link) has been working in Vanuatu since 1965 helping to strengthen economic development within tourism and agriculture, develop rural vocational education and improve waste management. Our volunteers work in five out of Vanuatu’s six provinces.

Defence links between the two countries were set up in 1986. The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) currently provides training and a NZDF engineer Warrant Officer is based in Port Vila as a Foreman of Works with the Vanuatu Mobile Force’s Engineer Platoon.

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.

Most of Vanuatu's 286,673 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. 


2016 statistics

Total trade in goods 

$52 million


Exports to Vanuatu

$51.3 million

Top exports: electrical machinery, wood and medicines 

Imports from Vanuatu


Top imports: meat and fruit products

GDP (2013)

US$799 million


GDP per capita


(NZ GDP per capita is US$37,100)

GDP growth 

3.2 %


In 2016 Vanuatu was our seventh 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 while extending the coverage of affordable solar power and water services to rural communities. 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

June 2017: Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy visited Vanuatu to attend the State Funeral of President Womtelo Reverend Baldwin Lonsdale.

May 2016: Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully and Minister for Climate Change Issues Paula Bennett visited Vanuatu as part of the Pacific Mission.

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.

Vanuatu to New Zealand

May 2017: Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Matai Seremaiah led a delegation to understand about New Zealand’s depth of productive expertise in the agriculture and beef sectors.

August 2016: Prime Minister Charlot Salwai led a delegation to New Zealand and met with former New Zealand Prime Minister Hon John Key, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon Murray McCully, Minister for Primary Industries Hon Nathan Guy, Minister of Immigration Hon Michael Woodhouse, and other business and community representatives.

August 2016: Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Bruno Leingkone, visited New Zealand to for consultations with New Zealand ministers. 

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

News & Events

Vanuatu: Tropical Cyclone Donna


Tropical Cyclone Donna is expected to intensify and make landfall in Vanuatu over the coming days as a Category 3 cyclone.