The Roads for Development (R4D) program is part of the Government of Australia’s commitment to assist the rural communities of Vanuatu gain increased access to a sustainable rural road network.

During the five-year program, SMEC managed the rehabilitation and construction of 350 km of roads whilst supporting Vanuatu’s Public Works Department to plan, build, maintain and operate its rural road infrastructure.


Rural road construction and maintenance

The program aimed to provide the rural communities of Vanuatu with increased access to a well-maintained, sustainable road network. The R4D program increased private sector involvement in rural roadworks to help stimulate economic growth and reduce PWD’s reliance on limited in-house resources. Communities became involved in maintaining their local roads through ‘community-based contracts’, a concept unique to R4D. Small ‘island-based contractors’ were also used extensively for road works.


Institutional development

With R4D support, the Vanuatu Public Works Department was able to transition itself from a public agency directly delivering road maintenance and construction projects to a performance-focussed road network manager outsourcing much of its works to an increasingly capable private sector.


This transition was successfully achieved through supporting PWD with significant capacity development to improve its effectiveness in key areas including planning, budgeting, programming, design and works delivery, policy setting, procurement and human resources management.


Summary of Impacts

The impacts of the project were:

  • Rural road construction and maintenance: The all-weather rural road network increased by 30% and the proportion of Vanuatu’s rural population with access to an all-year road rose by around 13%. This equates to an increase of around 2.6% per year during the 5-year program, much greater than the initial target of around 1% increase per year.
  • Institutional transformation: The program assisted the Government of Vanuatu streamline its public works management and administration.
  • Long term benefits for local communities: Investing in local economies and encouraging gender equality and social inclusion in the road sector.
increase in length of rural road network
increase in road access by rural population
m (AUD)
injected into local economies


Talk to one of our specialists about our role on the Roads for Development Program Project.