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Molokai Action Team Unite!

Senator J. Kalani English shares his mana`o with the Molokai Action Team on the economic future of the Friendly Isle.

Agencies come together for the island’s future.

By Brandon Roberts

In the wake of the Molokai Ranch closure, the Friendly Isle’s economic future rests in the hands of the community. State, county, and local representatives were brought together to find short and long-term approaches to economic stability, and assist the Ranch employees.

The Molokai Action Team (MAT) was created by Governor Linda Lingle and facilitated by Abbey Mayer, the newly appointed Director of the Hawaii Office of Planning. MAT held its first meeting, which was open to the public, April 7 at Kulana `Oiwi.

“The function of this group is not to be dictating to Molokai what should happen,” Mayer explained. “What happens here must be from the bottom up.”

The team consists of 13 state, county, and community officials, and their kuleana is workforce development and job creation for Molokai. The Ranch, whose actions lead to the team's conception, declined to participate in the meetings.

“The main advantages I see this action team bringing are collaborations among different levels of the community and government,” Mayer said, relying on community leaders for public outreach.

Maui County Councilman Danny Mateo believes the success of MAT begins with the inclusion of the Molokai residents. Mateo believes Molokai should be the piko of Hawaiian agriculture. He suggested the state look at relocating the Department of Agriculture to Molokai.

“We need to offer a hand up, not a hand out,” Mateo said, emphasizing that many unfilled county jobs have already been funded.

Homesteader Walter Ritte and OHA trustee Colette Machado both agreed that the state must be transparent in their inter-agency actions, as well as their dealings with the Ranch. Mayer concurred that MAT is currently limited without more information from the Ranch.

“This is a way to bring the community back together,” said Representative Mele Carroll. “We need to start healing.” She concurred with Mayer and Mateo that a viable, acceptable plan must be created and engaged by the community.

Rep. Carroll feels very positive about the meeting, yet she is worried about Ranch employees, especially those with mortgages, health care needs, and families. “We have very resourceful people on the team; my focus is on the implementation.”

She is also very interested in following ideas presented by the Molokai Livestock Cooperative general manager, and Ho`olehua homesteader, Kammy Purdy. The Co-op has shelves ready to be stocked, and would like to use fenced homestead lands to raise cattle. Molokai Ranch has 500 head of cattle that will soon be homeless.

Senator J. Kalani English said there are immediate solutions that do not need legislative action. English created the Emergency Environmental Work Force and believes it can be partnered with the Nature Conservancy, and other organizations, to provide instantaneous island employment.

“There is a genuine sense of just what is at stake,” English said. “What is on the table is the ability to deliver.”

MAT will meet again, May 5, at 11 a.m. in the DHHL conference room at Kulana `Oiwi.

The team consists of Senator J. Kalani English, Representative Mele Carroll, OHA trustee Colette Machado, Jo-ann Ridao (Office of the Mayor), Councilman Danny Mateo, Henry Oliva (Department of Human Services), Ray Foster (Monsanto), Stacy Crivello (Molokai Enterprise Community), Barbara Kalipi (QLCC), Kammy Purdy (Ho`olehua Homestead Association), Barbara Haliniak (Molokai Chamber of Commerce), Janice Kalanihuia (Governor’s Molokai Community Advisory Council), and Jimmy Duvauchelle (Maunaloa ‘Ohana Community Association).

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