Darleen and I landed in Vanuatu around 3pm on 20 June 2016. A step closer to realising our dream by moving into our neighbour’s house at Mangaliliu, Bob’s house – three blocks from our building site … perfect.
At the block on Tuesday morning (21 June 16), I was met by a ‘village elder’, who explained he was very concerned construction had commenced on our blocks, but no one was employed from the local village. An interesting exchange on our first full day at Mangaliliu!
This is what had previously occurred … on Friday morning (10 June 2016) the same elder closed our worksite and sent all the workers home for the day, for the very same reason. Our amazing builder Richard (Rabco Constructions) organised a meeting with the village Chief that afternoon, explaining how he won a contract to build for us, and that he wasn’t under any obligation to employ anyone from the village.
We did not purchase the land from the landowner, we simply purchased a 75-year lease that started in 2012. Our understanding from the lease – we did not have to employ anyone from the land owner’s family or the village in construction. But we did once we started to operate a business on the land.
As it turns out, our understanding was correct, but in our absence (we were back in Australia on 10 June 2016) Richard agreed to employ two local villagers to keep the project moving forward. Over the weekend their position changed, as the local villagers did not turn up on the work site Monday (13 June 2016) to start with Richard!
Well, here we were dealing with the same issue again on Tuesday morning (21 June 2016) with the elder. After:
– listening to his concerns for the land owners and local villagers,
– explaining our understanding of the lease regards construction,
– highlighting the sooner construction can be completed, the sooner we can employ local villagers in the business, and
– suggesting we meet with the elder and Chief that afternoon to talk through our project,
I closed the discussion by explaining we needed to talk with our Builder, and the elder departed.
After an update on progress from Richard (builder) Darleen and I headed into town to see Immigration, Shefa Council and the Land & Environment office.
Driving through the village on the way to Port Vila, the elder stopped us to explain he was happy with what we were doing on the land, and there was no need for a meeting with the Chief that afternoon … well there you go!
In town we didn’t have much luck, the key people we needed to see at each office were not to be found. But before heading back home we did receive a phone call from one of the departments, saying the documents would be finalised and could we come and collect them. The caller explained he was the person authorised to sign the documents, and informed me he was a family man, leading the conversation in the direction of a little sweetener … I simply said we could sort that out when we met that afternoon.
At the meeting we were taken to a private office, received the certified documents, and I explained when I submitted the application, ALL applicable fees were paid. Nothing more was said and we departed happy.
We were warned that we would be constantly tested by the locals!
Getting accustomed to life in paradise … Scott.