7 Jun 2006

NZ foreign minister meets Vanuatu Council of Chiefs

9:34 am on 7 June 2006

The New Zealand Foreign Minister,Winston Peters, says that New Zealand and Vanuatu traditional chiefs share a very close bond.

He says this was shown by a welcome he received at the Council of Chiefs Nakamal, or meeting house, yesterday in Port Vila.

Mr Peters heads a large delegation of politicians, officials, NGOs and business people which has been in Vanuatu for the past two days.

He says the ceremony, in part, was to acknowledge that New Zealand was the first country to recognize the chief council, which is widely credited for its work in conflict resolution and the role this has played in keeping the country relatively stable.

Mr Peters says with over 75 percent of the country still governed by traditional or kastom law, any governance project must involve the chiefs.

"So we seek to work with them and ensure that they are part and parcel of the process. If there is not enough acknowledgement of the chiefly role in this society then the long-term prognosis will not be good. I think this country has in a very visionary and exciting way, recognised that."