Dear Editor,

In January, Australia committed to finance the upgrade of a further section of the Kumul Highway, from Nambatu to the Wharf roundabout. This project will be implemented by the Government of Vanuatu through the Public Works Department. I am pleased to announce that we have signed a grant agreement with the Government and will shortly provide the first payment to enable those works to commence.

The upgrade will reduce flooding by improving drainage. It will provide more footpaths and more bus stops and improve traffic flows. Road users and pedestrians, businesses and tourists will be the major beneficiaries.

This new project will build on our significant A$31 million (2.5 billion vatu) contribution to upgrade roads, improve drainage, sanitation and waste management and improve road safety through the Port Vila Urban Development Project (PVUDP).

The roads, including the Lini Highway and George Kalsakau Drive, are transforming Port Vila and the improvements benefit everyone. They have been built to last – to benefit generations of future ni-Vanuatu — able to withstand heavy rainfall and reduce flooding for years to come. There are new disability accessible footpaths and bus bays. New and upgraded sanitation facilities will be used by thousands of people. Port Vila now has a designated place where septic waste can be deposited safely and treated properly.

The Government of Vanuatu managed these works in partnership with the Asian Development Bank. These projects delivered jobs and skills for local people, and built the capacity of the Government to manage complex infrastructure programs.

I reject the ill-informed criticisms of these projects, including in your newspaper. Major urban infrastructure works are complex and these were the first major road upgrades undertaken in Port Vila since Independence. Those who say that the PVUDP has been a disaster are simply wrong. The high quality roads, drainage and waste works, speak for themselves.

Assertions that Australian contractors did a poor job so other companies were called in are also wrong. Some of PVUDP’s contractors used subcontractors to do some of the work. This is normal practice.

Australia recognises that it is a privilege to work in your country, as a partner with your Government, to improve governance and service delivery. Australia’s infrastructure projects are always agreed with the Vanuatu Government. All Australian officials, including Defence Force personnel, who enter this country do so with the appropriate approvals from the Vanuatu Government.

We have been asked to fund more infrastructure and we will.

Jenny Da Rin

Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu

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