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Thursday, September 07, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023

Kaʻū and Volcano residents are encouraged by Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park native plant nurseryman
 Eric Hamren to head north to Halakalau National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, Oct. 14. See more below.
Photo from Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge
THE ENTIRE STATE IS EXPERIENCING AN ECONOMIC HIT following the Lāhainā firestorm disaster on Aug. 8, according to the state Department of Economic Development & Tourism quarterly forecast, released on Wednesday. The forecast predicts that Neighbor Island tourism, not just Maui, will experience some decline. Here is the report Outlook for the Economy:
        On Aug. 8, 2023, the wildfire tragedy in Lāhainā took the lives of at least 115 people and destroyed over 2,000 residential homes. The disaster area had more than 800 business establishments with about 7,000 employees. A total of 88 transpacific flights were canceled in August, representing 23,083 air seats. The passenger count to Kahului Airport decreased by over 70 percent after the tragedy from 7,000 a day to 2,000 a day.
    Initial unemployment claims jumped from an average of 130 cases per week before the wildfire to 865 cases in the first week after the fire, to 4,449 in the second week, and to 2,705 cases in the third week. Prior to the Maui wildfire, Hawai‘i’s economy continued its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 
    Year-to-date through July 2023, visitor arrivals recovered to 95.6 percent of the 2019 level while total visitor expenditures were 21.6 percent higher than the same seven months in 2019. The total value of building permits issued during the first seven months of 2023 increased by 17.1 percent from the same period a year ago. The permit value for additions and alterations increased by 55.1 percent, the value of residential permits increased by 0.6 percent during the same period, while the value for commercial and industrial permits decreased by 21.2 percent during the same period.
      State general excise tax collections increased by 8.0 percent during the first seven months of calendar year 2023 compared to the same period a year ago. Hawai‘i’s real gross domestic product (GDP) recovered to 97.0 percent in the first quarter of 2023 compared to the same period in 2019.  
    Hawai‘i’s labor force (not seasonally adjusted data) for the first seven months of 2023 recovered to 98.8 percent of the comparable 2019 level. The unemployment rate (not seasonally adjusted) averaged 2.9 percent during the first seven months of 2023, just 0.2 percentage points higher than the same period in 2019. 
     Hawai‘i’s consumer inflation, measured by the Honolulu Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, averaged 3.1 percent during the first seven months of 2023, higher than the 1.8 percent experienced during the same period in 2019, but much lower than the nation at 4.6 percent. 
     At the national level, the most recent (August 2023) Blue Chip Economic Indicators report, which is the consensus of 50 economic forecasting organizations, projected the U.S. economy to grow at 2.0 percent in 2023 and 0.8 percent in 2024. 
Blue Chip Economic Indicators predicts the U.S.
economy will grow by 2 percent in 2023 and .8 percent in 2024.
    For Hawai‘i, DBEDT estimates that the state’s real GDP will increase by 1.1 percent in 2023 and 1.5 percent in 2024, revised downward from its second-quarter forecast due to the impact of the wildfire tragedy. 
    In 2025 and 2026, economic growth for Hawai‘i is expected to be over 2.0 percent due to the expectation that reconstruction activities on Maui will begin. Visitor arrivals are projected to be 9.8 million in 2023, lower than previously projected. Visitor growth from both the domestic market and international markets will be seen on O‘ahu. Neighbor islands, especially Maui, will see fewer visitors. Visitor arrivals are expected to increase to over 10 million from 2024. By 2026, visitor arrivals will be fully recovered to the pre-pandemic level. Visitor spending is projected to be $21.2 billion in 2023 and is expected to increase to $23.6 billion by 2026. Non-agriculture payroll jobs are forecast to increase by 1.8 percent in 2023, lower than the 3.4 percent projected in the previous quarter. 
     The payroll job counts will increase by 1.9 percent in 2024, 1.7 percent in 2025, and 1.5 percent in 2026. The state unemployment rate is expected to be at 3.0 percent in 2023 and will improve to 2.7 percent in 2024, 2.5 percent in 2025, and 2.3 percent in 2026. Personal income is expected to grow by 2.7 percent in 2023, lower than the projection made in the previous quarter. Personal income will grow by 2.8 percent in 2024, 3.5 percent in 2025, and 3.8 percent in 2026. As measured by the Honolulu Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers, inflation is expected to be 2.8 percent in 2023, still lower than the projected U.S. consumer inflation rate of 4.0 percent for the same year. 
    Hawai‘i consumer inflation is expected to decrease to 2.3 percent by 2026. Hawai‘i’s population is expected to decrease by 0.1 percent in 2023 and 2024, remain stable in 2025, and increase by 0.1 percent in 2026.

KAʻŪ'S NATIVE PLANT OF THE MONTH IS MAUA, Xylosma hawaiiense. The monthly column by Jody Rosam with illustration by Joan Yoshioka is called Lāʻau Letters: Native Plants of Kaʻū and explores Kaʻū’s native plants and their moʻolelo (stories), uses, preferred habitats, and opportunities to adopt them for stewardship. The author and artist say that this column and illustration seek to encourage making new plant friends and reuniting with others.
    Description: Maua is a medium-sized endemic tree in the Willow or Salicaceae family. The outer bark of maua is gray, but below that layer is a lovely deep-red color. The older leaves are a shiny bright green, and the liko (new growth) emerges in brilliant shades of fuschia and red, much like those of lama. Maua is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are not found in the
same individual. Dioecy is found in other native species too (including ʻahakea and mēhamehame), but as populations of these species decline from introduced ungulates and habitat loss, male and female plants become so spatially separated that the pollen from the male plants do not reach the female plant, ultimately resulting in no seeds or regeneration. The small yellow flowers develop in clusters along the stems - male flowers bloom with bountiful and small yellow stamens and female flowers bloom without stamens and look more like immature fruit than flowers. Once pollinated, the female flowers give way to round green fruits that turn bright red as they ripen.
    Uses: Maua wood is very hard and dense and was used for pōhaku kuʻi ʻai or poi pounders. Maua was once much more common throughout the landscape, and the wood was also used for boards and planks and in home construction. Today, maua is so increasingly rare that it would be a shame to harvest any of the live wood for woodworking purposes.
    Habitat: Maua grows on all of the main Hawaiian Islands except for Kahoʻolawe and Niʻihau, though its range is becoming more restricted. It can grow in both mesic (habitats receiving a moderate amount of precipitation) and dryland forests, though it once grew in the coastal zone as well. Maua likes to grow with naio, alaheʻe, lama, wiliwili, ʻohe makai, and hao. In Kaʻū, there are a few individuals of maua still alive and well scattered throughout the lowland dry forests in Kahuku and Kamāʻoa, though hopefully more are hiding amongst their forest friends.
    Growing and Purchasing: Because maua is so uncommon, it is difficult to find adults to collect seeds from. If you do find yourself lucky enough to stumble upon fertilized and ripe fruits, act fast
Maua is rare and the fleshy pulp has about two
to three seeds in each fruit. 
because fresh seeds are the most viable. You can separate the 2-3 black seeds from the fleshy pulp by running them under water and gently breaking them apart with your fingers. Germination success improves when the seeds are sterilized in a 10% bleach solution for about 15 minutes and then soaked for several days in fresh water, making sure that the water is changed daily. Place seeds just under the surface of a perlite: cinder media, and keep them moist. Germination is slow, but once the seedlings emerge, they can grow rapidly. Remember, maua need companions, so plant several together if you can. The colorful liko and adorable flower clusters are a marvel to watch!
    About the artist: Joan Yoshioka says she is a conservationist at heart and has dedicated her life to preserving the native plants and animals of Hawaiʻi through her work with federal, state, and private organizations over the past 30+ years. She describes herself as an outdoor-lovin' optimist, biologist/botanist, and habitual creator of art-stuff. She says the key to our most fundamental and truest part of ourselves is found in nature and she constantly draws on it for inspiration.
    About the author: Jodie Rosam says she has a deep love for native plants and a passion for exploration, with over 15 years of experience in working in the restoration of Hawaiʻi's forests. As a mother and an educator, she says the next generation has the power to lead the world to a sustainable future, and is committed to teaching her children (and others) from a place-based perspective.

THE NATIVE PLANT NURSERY AT HAWAI‘I VOLCANOES invites folks to go on a trip to Pua Akala, Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Eric Hamren of Ke Ēweiēwe Nursery Operation's Plant Restoration at the National Park announced that the opportunity to enter Hakalau is coming up on Saturday, Oct. 14. It's called the Walk for the Wild. 
    Registration is required to attend the event. It also requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Those taking the 5k walk experience 38 years of successful conservation restoration, with guides and exhibits. The purpose of the refuge is to protect and manage endangered forest birds and their rainforest habitat.
   Hamren will be volunteering as a bird guide. See more at www.friendsofhakalauforest.org.

POLICE ARRESTED 25 FOR DUI the week of Aug. 28 through Sept. 3. Hawai‘i Island police arrested the motorists for driving under the influence of an intoxicant. Seven were involved in a
traffic collision. Three arrested were under the age of 21. So far this year, there have been 660 DUI arrests compared with 681 during the same period last year, a decrease of 3.1 percent.
    Hawai‘i Police Department’s Traffic Services Section reviewed all updated crashes and found 567 major collisions so far this year compared with 558 during the same period last year, an increase of 1.6 percent. To date, there have been 11 fatal crashes, resulting in 12 fatalities, (one with multiple deaths); compared with 23 fatal crashes, resulting in 25 fatalities (one with multiple deaths) for the same time last year. This represents a decrease of 52.2 percent for fatal crashes and 52 percent for fatalities.
    To date, the off-public roadway fatality count this year is one compared to zero for the same time last year.
    Police promise that DUI roadblocks and patrols will continue island-wide.

5000 in the mail, 2,500 on the streets.