Upon Vanuatu’s independence in 1980, land was formally restored to the customary owners. The new constitution proclaimed, “ All land in the Republic of Vanuatu belongs to the indigenous custom owners and their decedents.

Land is traditionally the source of personal and clan identity, spirituality, kastom, power, and economic livelihood; without land, one lacks the very basis for survival. Land is commonly referred to as “the mother” underscoring the importance of the relationship between people and the land associated with their kinship group or clan.
The right to occupy an area of land is the closest traditional equivalent to the westernized concept “ownership”; this right is determined by chiefs and held almost without exception by men. Even in parts of Vanuatu where inheritance is matrilineal, decision making about land, including the transfer of rights to land, is generally a male domain. Rights to use land (usufruct rights), or to use the natural resources on the land, are generally vested in both men and women; women traditionally have the main responsibility for tending home gardens.


Institutional Settings

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources oversees the functions of the Department of Lands, the Department of Water, Geology and Mines and the Office of The Valuer General.  The Ministry also cooperate with other Ministries to deal with land issues.  The goals is to ensure the fair dealing in lands, the rights of the Custom.   Owners to their lands and developments are fully recognised and protected.


The Department of Lands consists of four sections:

1.) Land Management

2.) Valuation

3.) Land Survey

4.) Land Registry

The Land Management section is to manage, facilitate and coordinate all land dealings in Vanuatu.  It has three units:

i) Valuation – provides valuation services on behalf of the Government;

ii) Planning and Enforcement – |oversees lease applications and ensures the compliance of lessees to lease;

iii)  Lease execution – in charge of administering lease-related dealings and reviewing land rent.


The Office of the Valuer General (OVG)  was established by the Valuation of Land act No 22 of 2002 and its role and function are stipulated under the Act, the Land Valuers Registration Act No 23 of 2002, and the Land Leases (Amended) Act 163 and the Land Acquisition Act No 5 of 1992.  Their mission is:

To ensure the integrity of valuation of land in Vanuatu.

To resolve disputes relating to land rentals and values.

To determine disputes relating to provisions of lease agreements and the Land Leases Act.

The Valuer General is to foresee registered valuers and government valuers comply with the Valuers Code of Professional Practice.

Collect reliable statistical data on land development and property market trends to valuers and other stakeholders.

Conduct training/awareness in respect to land rentals in terms and lease conditions.


The Land Survey Section deals with Vanuatu’s Geospatial extent in terms of Surveying and Mapping out a broad range of Physical and Human Geographic Spatial Phenomena such as Elevation Contours, Rivers, Villages and Leases.  It consists of Five Units that provide varied services including the Lease Survey, Drafting, Control, Remote Sensing & Mapping and the Information Technology Centre Units.


The Land Registry is in charge of registering leases that have undergone the Lease Registration Process.  With the e-registry system, digitally storing documents and entering associated data into a database.  Their mission is to:


1.) To register all land transaction documents.

2.) To maintain safe storage of archiving facilities.

3.) To ratify lease documents if rightful custom owner(s) are identified.

4.) To manage, facilitate and control client searches for stored Land Documents.

5.) To protect and store hard copies of pre-independence land records and dealings.



Hon. Charlot Salwai, Prime Minister

The Geology, Mines and Water Department responsible to promote and manage mineral resource exploration and exploitation and to manage, exploit and preserve Vanuatu’s Water Resources with the aim of improving the well-being of Vanuatu’s people.  There are two main units involved:


Mines & Minerals– In charge of managing and controlling all Mining and Quarrying Activities in Vanuatu.

Water– In charge of ensuring the sustainable use and development of Vanuatu’s Water Resources.

Their mission is:

To improve research and development of mineral resources, mineral and hydrocarbon development to sustain the country’s economic base.

To promote and manage mineral resource exploration with the prerogative of improving the well-being of Vanuatu’s people.

To preserve natural heritage and undertake geological survey, natural hazard and risk resources investigations

To maintain a database for efficient access to mineral and water resources data.

Require/request/provide assistance for geoscientific research projects from/to Scientific Institutions such as SOPAC, CSIRO, IRD and JAMSTEC that are involved with the Geology, Mines and Water Department to implement these projects.


Mines and Mineral
The Mines and Minerals Section is responsible for ensuring any development involving excavation is undertaken within the premises of the Mines and Minerals Act (Cap 190) through the issuance of new prospecting or mining licenses or renewal of prospecting licenses or quarry permits to approved applicants/businesses.

To undertake resources investigation and supervise the sustainable extraction of sand and aggregates.

To promote geological, coastal and oceanographic research and enhance mining development.

To create a laboratory to test for minerals.

To continue effectively issuing and administering prospecting and mining licenses/permits.

Liaise between industry and landowners, review sectoral legislation and work practices and promote Vanuatu’s mineral potential. The successful coordination of these sub-activities would ensure investor and landowner confidence to promote the active search for minerals and petroleum leading to early development of resources.

Monitoring and assessing Quarrying Activities. A closer supervision of existing sand and aggregate extraction has been established and will continue to be exercised.

Encourage and strengthen Geoscientific Research by Organisations such as CSIRO and JAMSTEC.



As Vanuatu’s population grows, demands on existing water sources will increase. These demands when combined with the increasing risk of pollution and climate-related changes could be expected to limit the future availability of potable water, constrain its productive use and impact negatively on Vanuatu’s most precious resource, its pristine natural environment.


The National Water Strategy aims to have sufficient quantities safe water to meet the basic needs, to increase livelihoods opportunities and to improve the overall economic standing of the country, by overcoming constraints that limit sustainable development of the water sector including factors related to finances, human resources, institutions and operations. In doing so, it gives effect to certain directives of the ni-Vanuatu Government such as for Physical Planning Areas (PPAs) requiring detailed strategies and plans for all the Government Departments.


The mission of the department of water is to develop and manage the nation’s water resources for the social and economic well being of the people of Vanuatu with a vision to make sure ‘sustainable and equitable access to safe water and sanitation for the people of Vanuatu to support improved public health and promote social and economic development’.


To achieve the above-said, the department will strive in working towards acquiring and maintaining up-to-date knowledge of the country’s land mass by means of systematic hydrological, hydrogeological and geotechnical surveys. A lot of data have was destroyed in The 7th June 2007 Courthouse fire incident and will need to be re-collected, compiled in computers so that they can be used to promote environmental management of the urban harbours, lagoons and important watersheds. In addition, the department maintains the only national drilling capacity to assist in the provision of water and geo-technical investigations.


Located at Georges Pompidou in Port Vila, the newly established department of Water will be under the supervision of the Director who is directly responsible to the Director General of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.


The Section has two Units being the Rural Water Supply and the Water Resources Management Sections.