A council of chiefs in Vanuatu says it wont won't allow a shipment of gravel from China to be used in the upgrade of Port Vila's Bauerfield Airport.
The chair of Efate's Vaturisu Council, Chief Henry Manlaewia, said he was alarmed by reports from the Department of Biosecurity that the aggregate had been imported without being treated before shipment.
Citing the fear of contamination from foot-and-mouth-disease, the department stopped the gravel from being unloaded from a ship still moored in Port Vila harbour.
China Civil Engineering and Construction Company was contracted by the World Bank to fix the airport's runway, and the company said crushing the gravel locally would delay the project.
Foot and mouth disease affects cloven hoofed animals, and the council's Chief Meameadola said contamination would destroy a vital food source for the people of Efate, most of whom live in rural areas and depend on their animals for meat.
Chief Manlaewia said the Government should send the ship back to China as soon as possible.
The Daily Post reported the Council of Ministers was due to discuss the gravel.