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Friday, March 08, 2024

Kaʻū News Briefs March 8, 2024

Hawai‘i Public Radio ran a story about the Punalu]u development issue on Friday with this photo and caption, saying, "A controversial proposal for development near Punaluʻu Beach Park has sparked overwhelming opposition from the community, while some longtime Kaʻū families see it as an opportunity for jobs and economic investment in the community." 
Photo by Kelsey Hiraishi/HPR

THE PUNALU‘U ISSUE DREW COVERAGE BY HAWAI‘I PUBLIC RADIO ON FRIDAY. HPR reporter Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi quotes Ikaika Ka‘ili‘awa of Nāʻālehu and Sophia Hanoa, of Pāhala, and writes the following:
    "The fate of a controversial development on the south side of Hawaiʻi Island remains in limbo after a public hearing in Hilo stretched more than eight hours into Thursday evening.
    "The developer, Black Sand Beach LLC, is seeking a permit from Hawaiʻi County to build a residential and commercial community on 434 acres of land at Punaluʻu.
    "Overwhelming amounts of public testimony and limited time forced the Hawai’i County Windward Planning Commission to postpone a decision on the future of a controversial development in Punaluʻu.
Ku‘uwehi Hiraishi writes about Punalu‘u
for Hawai‘i Public Radio.
    "Nāʻālehu resident Ikaika Kaʻiliʻawa-Smith said his opposition stems from a history of extractive developers using the land for profit.
"When C. Brewer developed Punaluʻu as a playground for the rich, they bulldozed graves, ancient home sites and heiau. When they extracted all the wealth that they could out of Kaʻū and its people, they left a mess in their wake. They left asbestos-built huts, gravel-filled ponds, and a leaking sewage system," Kaʻiliʻawa-Smith said.
    “Now this foreign developer wants us to ignore all of this. We cannot in good conscience allow this development to continue.”
    "Black Sand Beach LLC owner Eva Liu is proposing 225 residential and short-stay units, a village and wellness center, retail stores, and rehabilitation of the golf courses on the former Sea Mountain at Punaluʻu resort area.
    "Liu is requesting a special management area or SMA permit for the project.
    "However, not everyone from Kaʻū is opposed to the project. Sophia Hānoa, 59, whose family stewards land at Punaluʻu that has been in her ʻohana for generations, said there can be a win-win situation."
    The story quotes Hanoa saying, “Well, we must protect the wahi pana of Punaluʻu. No question. Where I stand on this development is if they do get the SMA approval, they will be doing things that will benefit the community. If they don’t get the approval, then nothing gets fixed, nothing gets repaired.”
Hānoa said, “There is a way through this, but everybody has to be able to sit down and see the bigger picture. What’s going to benefit future generations?”
      The story reported that the "commission adjourned Thursday evening with nearly 50 testifiers remaining. "There's no set date for the next meeting, but public notice needs to be sent out at least 48 hours in advance."

A STATEMENT ON PUNALU‘U CAME FROM REP. JEANNE KAPELA on Friday. She serves Kaʻū in the state House of Representatives and writes:
    "We must preserve Punalu‘u. I stand with the hundreds of people who testified yesterday in opposition to Black Sands, LLC’s proposed commercial development in Ka‘ū. Our kuleana is to protect our heritage and our pristine coastline. The environment of Ka’ū is fragile and home to many sacred Hawaiian cultural sites, including important Native Hawaiian burial sites.
    "Moreover, this project is not sustainable. It does not contain provisions that align with our county's or our state's clean energy goals. Already, the Ka‘ū area faces difficulty in sustaining local infrastructure. This project would be an additional drain on our precious energy and water resources. Instead of investing in private development that primarily benefits tourists, we should strengthen public facilities that uplift our community's and our keiki's health and well-being.
    "Ka‘ū is a region in which people have carefully cultivated the land for generations. It is one of the few places not overrun by the visitor industry. We need to keep our community in the hands of its ancestral caretakers, not corporations from the continent. The Punalu‘u coast also harbors numerous endangered spaces. Moving forward with this project without conducting another environmental impact statement would be reckless and a slap in the face of the families who have lived here for hundreds of years.
    "Planning Commission members should not rely on an outdated environmental impact statement to determine the course of our future. They must listen to the voices of the people, who are fiercely proclaiming that this proposal is not pono. Far too long, Hawaiians and rural residents have been silenced in our pursuit of a regenerative future. We will not be silent any longer. We will fight tirelessly to ensure the character of Ka’ū is determined by our community, not by nonresident corporations. And we will not back down."
Volunteers can help make the Kahuku-Pōhue trail. This photo is from the first day of trail work.
Photo from National Park Service

VOLUNTEERS FROM KAʻŪ ARE INVITED TO THE KAHUKU-PŌHUE unit of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park to help with trail maintenance, building a small rock wall, and ʻōpala (rubbish) clean-up .
The volunteer event at the newly acquired Kahuku-Pōhue unit is Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participate in one or both days. Meet at the Kahuku Visitor Contact Station. The park will shuttle all volunteers to and from the site.
    The park, with kōkua from Friends of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and National Park Service staff from Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, and Puʻukoholā Heiau National Historic Site, have begun work on a 0.3-mile trail that will eventually allow pedestrian access to the Pōhue Bay area.
    Volunteers are asked to be prepared for rugged uneven terrain, very little shade and warm weather. Water, gloves and tools will be provided. Wear closed-toe shoes, bring lunch and snacks, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Under 18? Parental or guardian accompaniment with written consent is required.
    Canʻt make it but want to help? Let the organizers know so they can make contact for future volunteer opportunities. To register and for more information, contact Park Ranger Travis Heinrich via email: Travis_Heinrich@nps.gov.