Aha Kiole Community Findings Revisited
(printed in two parts)
By the Aha Kiole o Molokai
American Safari Cruises (ASC) will begin visiting Molokai again beginning this month. In the March 14, 2012 issue of the Dispatch, the Aha Kiole presented its findings from a public survey and moku meetings on ASC and the cruise tour industry on Molokai. The results indicated that the community was interested both in protecting Molokai’s ocean resources and small town character, as well as allowing for some commerce for our island vendors. Residents indicated a desire for management to bring a satisfactory outcome for both vendors and local ocean users.
The Aha Kiole’s kuleana is to protect and preserve Molokai resources, and to that end, the Aha is initiating a short-range plan that will request a ruling from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to limit the size of vessels to those the size of the ASC boat, excluding larger ships. This assurance would do much to alleviate the fears of locals who rely on the ocean for livelihood and kaukau, as well as allow economic opportunities for businesses. A long-range plan is also being explored, which would require more community collaboration because it involves changing current statutory rulings.
Last year’s explosive reaction to the issue was caused by not first having a community forum to garner broader local input. There was both support and opposition, but there was no protocol for community dialogue. There is a clear need for such protocol, and while the issue became aggravated between certain groups, polling each of the island’s six moku showed that the majority of respondents favor allowing limited cruise tour commerce. The Aha Kiole hopes to begin an acceptable protocol for community input, and to encourage behavior that is collaborative and inclusive of all residents’ views.
DLNR/DOT Responses to Community Concerns
As part of the Aha Kiole o Molokai’s commitment to the community, we brought our survey comments to the attention of DLNR chairman Bill Aila, as well as Department of Transportation Harbor Division Deputy Randy Grune, so they could respond to the concerns.
The issues below (and continuing in next week’s Dispatch) represent those most often repeated. They do not represent the position of the Aha Kiole, which is intended to be neutral.
Bill Aila: Regarding limiting passengers to no more than one boat that will visit Molokai per week (total of 52 visits per year), the cruise ship is coming to Molokai as a “passenger boat.” Because it is a federally regulated activity, boats have the freedom to navigate and come into ports between islands for commerce and emergencies. If the cruise ship was entering a small boat harbor, then it would be subject to small boat harbor rules. Under rules for small boat harbors, reasonable limits can be imposed on visits. But because this is a commercial pier at Kaunakakai, the rules may differ.
But you have every right to request a new ruling to limit larger vessels.
Randy Grune: There are no plans in the foreseeable future to expand the Molokai wharf to accommodate a greater capacity. Fuel and cargo take precedence over passenger vessels in the harbor. Space is very limited at the wharf — there is Young Brothers barge, as well as the existing Molokai Princess commuter vessel, so additional there’s not much capacity for additional passenger boats. Theoretically, large cruise ships could anchor outside the harbor and ferry passengers in, but the community could limit that through the rule-making process.
Bill Aila: That is where you try to make the legislative changes to statutory laws, showing how too much visitation can adversely affect the natural resources of the ocean and land of Molokai. Again, though, you would need to have a lot of community interaction.
Aha Kiole input: This is the area in which we can protect our island from being overwhelmed by the industry. Our interest is in allowing for a reasonable amount of commerce that does not deplete the natural resources.
Survey results suggested kapu zones for Kaulukukui o Lanikaula and ‘Ili’iliopae. The State Historic Preservation Division has authority over culturally and significant historic sites (e.g. Wahi Pana) that are registered or eligible for registration on the State Historic Sites Registry. For Wahi Pana located on private lands, the state can work cooperatively with landowners. Aha Kiole input: Other state and county permits and land use designations also provide some regulatory limits. Under the Molokai Community Plan, which is also part of the Maui County General Plan, all commercial activity is prohibited on Molokai’s east end – except through a Special Use Permit approved by the Molokai Planning Commission – e.g. Mana`e Goods and Grinds.
Regarding regulation of authenticity and legitimacy of cultural vendors, there may be a protocol offered by island expert practitioners. A group comprised of such organizations as the Molokai Visitors Association, the Molokai Chamber of Commerce, the Aha Kiole or others could sponsor an endorsement program or stamp of approval for local vendors. Regarding the rotational use of existing vendors, such as vans and tours, to ensure sharing of wealth on Molokai, DLNR cannot require it by law, as it may be a matter of contract law. Requiring all tours and activities to be escorted by local escorts raises similar contract law issues.
There had been concerns about rubbish dumping by vessels on Molokai. We [DLNR] have handled that situation in regard to the American Safari Cruises, as they now dump their rubbish in Lahaina.
As suggested, the state can encourage visitors work in the fishponds and lo`i. Regarding no overnight stays on the North Shore, the DLNR can work on rule-making in that area. If land is in conservation, both private and public, no commercial activity is allowed.
Survey results suggested visitors attend a special orientation on Molokai and its culture, with input from each moku. Although we cannot mandate that cruise passengers watch a video, we can highly encourage all visitors to take advantage of a video, similar to the Papahanaumokuakea orientation video, explaining the Molokai experience and why it is special. DLNR can ask the Hawaii Tourism Authority to provide funds to produce such a video.
Survey results suggested requiring the use of existing hotels and B&Bs for overnight stays, rather than passengers sleeping on the ship. The cruise company owner will probably not agree to this provision because it is part of the package deal they advertise to passengers and they have an expectation of staying on the ship and having their food needs provided for. Aha Kiole input: Considering the need for on-island commerce, in support of our hotels and eateries, this could be brought to our business community for discussion.
Regarding the suggestion that community process must include free and informed community participation and consent and meetings must be held in each affected moku, DLNR consults with the Aha Kiole as well as other Hawaiian groups, such as the Hawaiian Civic Clubs and OHA. Molokai is progressively ahead of the other Aha Moku island councils (re: consulting with the community), and while DLNR supports a protocol, we need to look at the legislative act that passed, the statutory law that indicates how the Aha Kiole/Aha Moku Council interfaces with the DLNR.