Published on 11th November 2015
VSA volunteer and GHD Resource Management Planner Chris Donnelly recently completed a six month assignment in Northern Vanuatu as part of the New Zealand and Regional Partnerships Programme in 2015.
As part of his assignment, Chris worked with the Penama Government and his counterpart Georgewin Garae to conduct remote community consultation and develop the Penama Provincial Government Corporate Plan 2012-2015.
We took a few moments to chat with Georgewin and Chris during their recent visit to Wellington for the VSA 2015 Annual Congress:
Q – Georgewin, was there anything in particular you liked about working with a volunteer from New Zealand?
A – (Georgewin) This was the first time we’ve worked with a volunteer from VSA. I liked the way Chris was able to relate to the remote communities directly. I also liked how Chris put pressure on me to keep me accountable and make sure we got the job done. But I personally had a VSA connection already. Back in 1988, while I was in Year 8 at school, I was taught science by a VSA volunteer, in Vanuatu on assignment!
Q – While gathering data from communities in Penama, did anything interesting or unusual come up as a point of importance to residents?
A – (Chris) There were so many requests – too many. We had to decide how to narrow down all the requests into something manageable. We did a lot of bargaining and consultation with nearly 30,000 residents to come up with a consensus with which we could move forward. The communities we consulted all appreciated being involved.
Q – The plan is due to be reviewed in a few years. Who will do that?
A – (George) The plan is actually due to be reviewed every two years. We do that by going back to the communities, the various area councils, sectors and land departments. We will also go back to the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to make sure the Plan still meets the region’s needs.
Q – What was the most challenging part of creating / implementing the plan?
A – (Chris) Because this was the first attempt at decentralisation of the central government, it was always going to be a sensitive and time-consuming process. The Plan’s buy-in by the Penama province means that the government now has a benchmark to use for a rollout to other provinces.
Q – The plan gained endorsement from the Director General of Internal Affairs. Have you had any other endorsements since then?
A – (George) We had four government ministers come down to review the consultation process. The Director General then took the Plan to the Council of Ministers (the equivalent of the NZ Cabinet) and the Council as a whole endorsed it.
A - (Chris) This means that the Plan is a tangible representation of the government’s official position of supporting decentralisation and VSA will be placing volunteers in two other provinces to continue the work. Essentially, this means that three of the six provinces in Vanuatu will soon have Corporate Plans developed as a result of VSA volunteers.