In this article, we investigate how participatory development programs are implemented in our own under-covered region of Oceania. We investigate how participatory programs do the opposite of what they promote, to subordinate local populations to pre-set foreign agendas. This idea is firstly explored in a discussion on the historical emergence of participatory development as a form of governance. We secondly analyze how such participatory development projects have been implemented in the Fijian Sugar Industry and in Community Based Fishery Management across Oceania. Lastly, we discuss the potential of Oceanic governments to break free of the mind trick of participatory development, and to reclaim the Oceanic development agenda.