Port Vila has never had a town plan until now.
This was revealed to members of the Councils of the chiefs of the South Efate villages of Erakor, Pango, Mele, Eratap and Ifira by the Manager of Port Vila Municipal Council (PVMC) Town Planning Unit, Jerry Sampson.
The chiefs council members were attending a meeting organized by PVMC to hear their views on the proposed Port Vila Zoning and Development Control Plan. The Plan is currently being developed by the PVMC in partnership with the Department of Lands, the Department of Local Authorities, and Shefa Provincial Government Council.
Jerry Sampson told Kizzy Kalsakau of 96 BuzzFM’s Vanuatu Nightly News “the meeting marked a milestone and a historical day for Port Vila municipality as well as Shefa and the villages around Port Vila to be invited to hear and to share their views on the proposed Port Vila Zoning and Development Control Plan”.
The members of the Councils of the chiefs of the five villages were presented with the proposal PVMC has termed a new Port Vila Zoning the Development Control Plan for the next 10-20 years starting in 2017.
Also present at the meeting — the President of the national council of chiefs, Malvatumauri, and the President of Efate Vaturisu council of chiefs, Chief Manlaiwia.
“The idea behind the consultation meeting is to access views of landowners of where Port Vila is situated especially those of the five villages mentioned above about the proposed plan,” Sampson said.
“Port Vila is the largest city and the capital of Vanuatu and it is situated on a 12 square kilometer land area,” he continued.
“Compared to other areas of Vanuatu, it is becoming over populated. It is now densely populated with increasing issues of its own that are becoming very obvious. One of these issues is the traffic congestion in downtown Port Vila during peak hours, a clear example of an overpopulated city.”
Then the Manager of Town Planning dropped a bombshell: “Port Vila has never had a plan since the establishment of the municipal council in 1975. There has never been a document guiding developments in Port Vila town. And that’s what Port Vila has been lacking since its establishment.”
“Though it’s quite development now and people may say it’s late to come up with strategies to guide future developments, but it is not late in terms of future planning,” Jerry Sampson added.
The chiefs attended the meeting and were presented them with the statement of proposals prepared by the zoning team responsible for zoning of Port Vila town comprising of officers from the Department of Lands, the Department of Local Authorities, Port Vila Municipality and Shefa Province. They were then given time to ask questions. That was the overall purpose of the meeting today.
“Consultation is part of the specific requirement for any development plan and it is important to start the process of consultation with those chiefs today.”
When pressed by Kizzy Kalsakau Sampson said increasing the boundary of Port Vila was not part of this planning process being undertaken by this zoning team because it was a separate issue and not part of the mandate of this team.
“The only mandate received is to prepare a plan for the physical development area of Port Vila and Shefa Province. Expansion of the Port Vila urban area is not their aim.”
However, the Manager Town Planning explained that there is designated what they call a Greater Port Vila Physical Planning Area that extends beyond the current boundary of the urban area of Port Vila as far as Devil’s Point in the north and Rentabau River in the south.
“The reason why we designated this big area is because the spillover of development that is taking place is affecting the rural areas, as can be seen at Beverley Hills, Bladiniare, Blacksands, Mele and as far as Teouma.”
Sampson lamented that those areas and the best agricultural lands of South and Southeast Efate and it is not looking good that all these is losing to physical development as much of these lands have been subdivided for residential leases. Hence, the need to develop a development control plan.
The PVMC has budgeted Vt6 million for the Zoning and Development Control Plan and Shefa Province also has it budget for development in areas of the surrounding villages.
In November, 2016, the first consultation with the private sector was held on the proposed Plan presented them with the statement of proposals and to hear their feedback.
The division of the areas suggested in the Plan is the town center, which is the main business district of Port Vila which is divided into two areas, the residential area divided into three – low, medium and high density residential areas, three industrial areas – light, general and heavy and the pheri-urban areas in Shefa, which lie just outside of the boundary of Port Vila and the rural area with suggested foreshore areas and water resource catchment areas.
Drafters say the plan will affected everyone in Port Vila and surrounding areas and villages. As a result, they need the feedback from everyone. The final draft is expected to be released after April 2017, after which it will be gazette with the State Law Office and become law and everyone has to comply with it including the government, Jerry Sampson concluded.