The past two years have been declared by both the Vanuatu National Council of Chiefs and the National Cultural Centre, the years of the ‘custom (kastom) economy’. Such a declaration is indicative of many ni-Vanuatu citizens’ concerns to do with the (un)sustainable directions of current macro-economic conditions and strategies of the Vanuatu state. The years of the kastom economy reflect both a reaction and resistance against such strategies. This article considers the complexities of sustainable economic strategies unpacking key tensions between: individual vs. collective, cash vs. custom, ‘subsistence plus’ vs. ‘not enough’ , wealth as land-focused vs. educational-focused and urban vs. rural. It is proposed that practitioners of development who hold a commitment to sustainability will require a ‘compass’ enabling them to navigate through the kind of tensions discussed.