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Aha Kiole Drafts Protocol for Passenger Boat Industries

As the Molokai community continues to determine its future and where tourism fits into the economical equation, the Aha Kiole, a resource management group, has compiled the results from a series of community meetings and surveys. The document outlines guidelines for tour companies arriving to the island by boat, including American Safari Cruises (ASC), which has been making controversial stops to Molokai since October 2011.

Results of feedback gathered by the Aha Kiole over the past several months showed different levels of agreement with ASC’s visits through surveys and moku meetings. In the surveys, 85 percent of the 395 residents surveyed voted “no,” 11 percent voted “yes,” and 4 percent said “yes” but with controls.

Results from five moku meetings in January, attended by 326 residents, showed a different representation of opinion. Of the attendees of the meetings, 36 percent said “no” to passenger boats and yachts, 8 percent voted “yes,” while a majority of 56 percent said yes, with controls.

“What that told us is that people wanted strong controls,” Walter Ritte, a leader in the Aha Kiole, said last Wednesday at the Kawela moku meeting. That meeting kicked off a series of follow-up moku meetings to take place in the next several weeks to gather feedback on the drafted passenger boat guidelines.

Suggested “controls,” summarized in the guideline document, were gathered from the meetings, surveys and documents such as the Molokai community plan. After the final round of meetings is completed, the Aha Kiole plans to submit the guidelines to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to establish protocol for passenger boat companies wishing to add Molokai to their itinerary.

Aha Kiole leaders hope that the guidelines the community has assembled will be used by the DLNR as a screening process for would-be tour companies. In addition to following the mandates provided, the Aha Kiole proposes that any company wishing to include Molokai in their itinerary must also hold community meetings and obtain residents’ consent.

The Aha Kiole’s effort to establish a protocol for passenger boat industries arose when American Safari Cruises (ASC), a company whose 36-person yacht makes two-day stops on Molokai approximately every 10 days, began docking in October 2011. ASC officials had been in contact with local vendors and business owners for several years. But some felt that the general community was left out of the planning and decision-making process, and protested the boat’s passage.

In an agreement with protesters and Aha Kiole leaders, ASC temporarily suspended its Molokai stops until the community had held a series of public meetings. They resumed their visits in January, and are authorized to dock at the Kaunakakai Wharf until May. After that, Ritte said, they would have to be re-examined by the state, and follow the drafted Aha Kiole guidelines in order to continue their visits in the fall.

ASC would have to make some changes to their current operations in order to abide by the proposed guidelines. A section entitled “fair exchange of value and sharing of wealth” calls such practices as rotational use of local vendors, such as vans and tours, use of existing hotels and B&Bs for overnight stays (ASC passengers currently sleep on the yacht), and use of local restaurants rather than dining on the vessel.

Bridget Mowat said that as it stands now, only a few local individuals and businesses benefit economically from the yacht’s arrival.

“The whole purpose [of the yacht’s Molokai stop] is to boost local economy,” she said in support of a section of the guidelines.

For Kawela moku residents, one of the more controversial points in the draft guidelines was “no visits to Halawa Valley.” Ritte said this stipulation had come primarily from Mana`e residents. Attendees of last week’s meeting pointed out that it was illegal to forbid travel on a public road, but discussed adding specifications like “no commercial activities in Halawa” or “no visitors on private property.”

Currently, a cultural tour of Halawa Valley with Lawrence Aki is part of ASC’s itinerary. Moku leader Wade Lee stressed that before a final decision was made on activities in the valley, the Aha Kiole would need input from Halawa residents and moku leaders.

The document is still under discussion, and many residents feel revisions and clarifications need to be made. But establishing protocol has been viewed as a big step towards Molokai’s goal of self-determination.

“No other agency has done what we’ve done,” said Ritte. “We just got to be patient… we’re not going to give up.”

Upcoming moku meeting to discuss the guidelines include: Mana`e moku at Mana`e Community Center, March 28, potluck at 5 p.m. and meeting at 6 p.m.; Pala`u moku at Lanikeha Community Center, April 9 at 6 p.m.

Draft guidelines, as compiled by the Aha Kiole, for passenger boat and yacht visits to Molokai:

I. Protection and Enhancement of Environment and Culture
1. Subsistence
No visits to Mo`omomi.
Encourage work in Fishponds and Taro Lo`i.
No overnight stays on North Shore.
2. Wahi Pana/Kapu Zone
No visits to Kaulukukui o Lanikaula.
No visits to Halawa Valley.
No visits to Iliiliopae.

3. Commercial/Recreation Activity

1. No Ocean activities except with local existing vendors.
2. Regulate authenticity, legitimacy and validity of all cultural vendors.
3. No dumping of rubbish in ocean or on Molokai.
4. Attend a forty-five minute Orientation on Molokai and its culture, with input from each Moku.

II. Fair Exchange of Value and Sharing of Wealth
1. Rotate the use of existing vendors, such as Vans and Tours.
2. All tours and activities must be escorted by local escorts.
3. Use existing Hotels and legal B&B for overnight stays (no sleeping on Ship).
4. Use existing restaurants and eateries (no eating on the ship).
5. Donate to a Community Fund (not the Aha Kiole o Molokai) to be used for environmental/cultural protection and enhancement on Molokai.

III. Limit and Control over the Number, Size and Frequency of Visits
1. No more than two full size Vans per visit, or 30 people per boat.
2. No more than One Boat Visit a Week, others say a month, what do you say?

IV. Separation of Visitors from Real Estate Sales and Land Taxes
1. All visitors must attend a 45 minute orientation which includes land issues past and present.

V. Community Process must include free and informed community participation and consent. Community meetings must be held in each of the Moku that will be impacted.