14 Jun 2012

Vanuatu opposition says NZ funding for prison still needed

12:01 pm on 14 June 2012

Vanuatu's deputy opposition leader says the country still needs funding from New Zealand to fix its prisons.

The prison issue has come to the fore as four escaped prisoners are still on the loose, and thought to be on the main island of Efate.

New Zealand had negotiated to build a new prison if a suitable site could be found, and then offered to re-build one of the existing three facilities, which Vanuatu declined.

Edward Natapei says it's concerning, at a time when Vanuatu is expecting a lot of visitors for a large international meeting, and it is bad for tourism.

"We got the assistance of the New Zealand government to build a correctional centre. Unfortunately because of the delay of building the road up to the site, the New Zealand government has decided to withdraw the funding. But we hope that we can negotiate that because that's the only way that we can improve the facilities to be able to keep our prisoners in the correctional services."

Edward Natapei says he hopes to be in a position to negotiate with New Zealand, and that the government will come back on board.

The New Zealand High Commission in Port Vila says the funding that had been offered has been taken off the table, and it is waiting on a steer from the Vanuatu government.