25 Sep 2006

Vanuatu land summit seen as a chance to end speculation

7:31 am on 25 September 2006

There are hopes that a land summit in Vanuatu this week will develop ways to combat rampant land speculation.

The summit will feature input from all sectors as the country strives for an agreement that will protect land owners and also allow development.

Ralph Regenvanu from the Vanuatu Cultural Centre says there are high levels of dissatisfaction over the administration of land.

He says around two thirds of coastal land on the main island of Efate is now controlled by foreigners through long term leases.

"The fact that two thirds of the land has been sold off in that way is a major factor that influences dissatisfaction and that tendency to sell off the land is now happening on another island, Santo, which is where the second biggest urban area in the country is, so there is a view that this is going on and we need to intervene before it goes too far."

The typical 75 year lease can effectively mean ownership because custom owners are often unable to meet a requirement that they pay for any improvements when the lease expires.