About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ka`u News Briefs Saturday, June 24, 2017

A planned lava tour boat operation has been cancelled at Punalu`u after many community members took the issue
to property and boat ramp owners, government officials and community groups. Photo from Iwalani Watai
A PLANNED LAVA TOUR BOAT OPERATION out of Punalu`u is cancelled, as of yesterday when Punalu`u boat ramp owners, SM Investment Partners -  associated with Roberts Hawai`i, withdrew their agreement with Hang Loose Boat Tours, LLC. Community members reported to Roberts that the tour boat company was damaging the boat ramp and associated rock walls at Punalu`u, using a backhoe, in an effort to make the ramp wide enough for the Hang Loose tour boat. By evening, a group of protectors had set up tents next to the ramp saying they would camp there to prevent excavation or any further damage.
A backhoe, at the boat ramp and historic wharf at Punalu`u.
Photo by Nohea Ka`awa
   From Kona, Hang Loose offers a Morning Dolphin Adventure & Reef Snorkel, Kealakekua Bay Snorkel Tour, Manta Night Snorkel, Whale Watch and has had a photo of lava pouring into the ocean, but no lava tour offered on its website. Permits for lava tours from Poho`iki in Puna are all taken, leaving Punalu`u as the closest boat ramp with any opportunity for tour boat companies, if they were allowed there. The boat ramp is the only private boat ramp on the island, according to the state Department of Land & Natural Resources' map of harbors and ramps.
     Simon Velaj, owner of Hang Loose, said this morning that he rented the old restaurant site at Punalu`u from Roberts and planned to park his 34-foot, 24-passenger, aluminum catamaran there and launch it not more than once a day - on evenings when sea conditions were calm enough to take passengers.          
Guy Enriques with keiki as endangered baby hawksbill turtles make
their way from their sandy nests to the ocean at Punalu`u, across
from the boat ramp where lava boat tours had been planned.
Photo by Julia Neal
     After running his boat from waters off Punalu`u to the lava entry, he said, the estimated time to reach the viewing area would have been about 40 to 50 minutes on a calm evening. He estimated the tour would have been about three hours with about a half hour of viewing offshore the lava.
     The cancellation was emailed to Hang Loose as well as Guy Enriques, founder of the community group O Ka`u Kakou, and a Punalu`u waterman and resident as well as a former County Council member. It was also emailed to current County Council member Maile David.
    The letter came from Roy Pfund, of SM Investment Partners. SM owns the ramp, old restaurant site and other resort, open, residential, commercial and golf course property at Punalu`u.
    The letter from SM to Hang Loose states: "We have received information from members of the community, including a city council member that rocks at the shoreline have been moved and trees have also been removed. You stated that you were in the process of leveling some pillars at the boat ramp. These activities not only require Landlord approval, but require permits from the state and/or county government. We did not authorize you to conduct any activities as described above nor can we condone this type of unlawful behavior, thus we have no option but to cancel your License Agreement due to your non-compliance."
Honu, green sea turtle looks out to Punalu`u Bay toward the boat ramp
where lava tour boat trips were planned. Photo by Julia Neal
     Velaj maintained that he was cleaning up the area, patched the road to the boat ramp, cleared away brush and cut some sharp metal sticking up out of concrete at the boat ramp that, he claimed, was dangerous to anyone. He said the metal was left over from commercial shipping days at Punalu`u. He said to make the repairs on the old road and the area he used a small Caterpillar backhoe.
     A community meeting had been called by Enriques and O Ka`u Kakou, to be held at the old Aspen Center at Punalu`u this Monday, but was cancelled after the agreement to use the boat ramp was withdrawn from Hang Loose Tours.
     Velaj said he has been a "good citizen" tour boat operator in Kona and hopes the Ka`u community will appreciate the repair of the road to the boat ramp and the cleanup of the area. He said he is sorry that his plans did not work out with the community.
      Ka`u's County Council member, Maile David, said this morning that she would like to acknowledge the quick response from the owners and the work of the community to document the activities at the Punalu`u shorelan and in contacting her, other public officials and the propoerty owners.
     She also said that the situation was one in which the community should have been involved ahead of time, particularly since Punalu`u is "such an environmentally and culturally special place." She pointed to the nesting of the endangered Hawaiian hawksbill turtles, a short distance from the boat ramp, as well as historic, cultural and archaeological sites and its unique status as the ocean place for Ka`u families.
A Hang Loose boat would have carried 24 passengers to the lava flow
and back to Punalu`u. Photo from Hang Loose
    The council member said that "Someone needs to outline what needs to be done for any future commercial operations in Punalu`u." She said that stakeholders, landowners and people wanting to do business "need to do due diligence. This is a wake up call."
      She said, "I am very happy and thankful for the community that called me immediately. I was able to hear the boat operator's side and talk to the owners." She noted the value of many different people from different alliances working together on the issue which was resolved quickly.
    She also noted that anyone wanting to do business around here needs to "Be a good neighbor. Introduce yourself to the community. Recognize this is a pristine area that is culturally and environmentally important."
     Numerous other community members became involved:

Historic structure in the boat ramp area.
Photo from Ruth Beauchan
      Ron Ebert, of O Ka`u Kakou, posted on facebook: "The leadership of OKK should be thanked for all they did behind the scenes to bring this situation to an end. Also our county council person Maile David and her office worked hard behind the scenes and should be thanked also."
      Zina Galapir Hough posted: "Punalu'u being our childhood and adulthood playground, we all learned from our grandparents, parent, and uncles the in and outs of the inner/outer reefs and currents. We all are too familiar of the sudden changes of the winds, weather, and currents that that can be pretty unforgiven to the unknowleged and unwise. Breaks my heart to see such disrespect to our Punalu'u."
Maile David said businesses
and community should study
what is allowed at Punalu`u.
Photo by Ann Bosted
     Rachel Ballesteros Velez posted: "We applaud what OKK does for Ka'u. But regardless if OKK resolved the issue...the issue isn't resolved with the hearts of the people of Ka'u....this isn't just going to go away because the 'big wigs' resolved the political part."
     Charmaine Bugado posted that the Ka`u community should "organize because future development is coming guaranteed and a early plan will help lahui who join after to kokua effectively. Aloha aina hana to make pono."
    Demetrius Oliveira on his Keauokalani facebook page covered the story extensively and the overall effort to preserve the Ka`u Coast and natural resources here. He posted a video of local residents confronting the Hang Loose boat owner at Punalu`u, a posting that has received more than 25,000 views.  
   Oliveira also reported on Waimakalani Watai Iona getting in touch with the Hang Loose boat company operator. Iona wrote: "I just got off the phone with the guy, his name is Simon. I told him I had questions and wanted to know his facts. I also told him that I would make our conversation public and he said ok. So this is what he told me: Roberts Hawai`i claims to own the land right down to the water. He has a lease with them for the boat ramp. He received a special permit from DLNR to use the boat ramp which wanted to run a boat from for lava tours. 
     "I asked him if he is aware that there are historic sites right there. He said he wasn't aware. I told him that I am notifying him at this moment.
      "He said that he will be at a special meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. behind the condos. (meeting at old Aspen Center since cancelled). He will be there along with County Council and wants the community to attend (meeting cancelled after landowner cancelled license). I asked him, 'If the community is against this, what will be your response?' He said he will walk away. I repeated that fact to him and told him that I was going to make this public and he is aware. He said he will not be back to the ramp until then."     
     Valez said on Saturday that although the meeting is cancelled, he still hopes to meet with the community to tell his story and make amends.

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Palm Trail Hike on Sunday at Kahuku.
Photo by Sami Steinkemp/NPS
Palm Trail, Sun, June 25, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. This moderately difficult 2.6-mile loop traverses scenic pastures along an ancient cinder cone, with some of the best panoramic views Kahuku has to offer.

HOVE Road Maintenance board of directors meeting, Tue, June 27, 10 a.m., St. Jude’s Church. 929-9910

Ka‘ū Food Pantry, Tue, June 27, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Ocean View.

Pāpale (Hat) Workshop, Wed, June 28, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., Kīlauea Visitor Center lānai in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Participants weave a hat from coconut leaves Free; park entrance fees apply.

Coffee Talk, Fri, June 30, 9:30 – 11 a.m., Kahuku Unit of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. An informal conversation on a wide variety of topics. Ka‘ū coffee, tea and pastries available for purchase. Free.

Ocean View Community Development Corp
. meeting, Fri, June 30, 5 p.m., Hawaiian Ranchos office.