Author Archives: Hilary Dyer

The Ups and Downs of Bettering Molokai’s Molokai’s Water Woes

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Picking up where August’s water meeting left of, community members regrouped last Saturday to deliberate over Molokai’s water issues. The intent of the September 8, 2007 meeting was to develop a framework for the future of the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS).

Where the previous meeting could be characterized as collaborative, Tuesday’s meeting was certainly more heated in nature. Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) representatives were pressed with questions regarding the finance and maintenance of the MIS.

But the recent news mandating the removal of Molokai Ranch from the MIS certainly caused the most discussion.

“Yes, we know there is a big elephant in the room,” said HDOA chairperson, Sandra Lee Kunimoto.

New Interactive News Source for Maui

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

The future is now for Maui County residents who don’t want to rely on Honolulu media outlets for their news. Maui.Today.TV is taking advantage of a new concept – a “television” channel on the Internet.

The MauiToday.TV Web site provides its viewers with everything a local news station would; news coverage, sports updates and community events. The site even has its own news anchors. But because of the diversity its Web format allows, MauiToday.TV is able to offer much more than a simple news segment on a television channel ever could.

Ken Martinez Burgmaier is the news director and production manager for the Web site. Burgmaier says that while the site delivers breaking local news stories and has its own professional crew, it also embraces the slogan, “Broadcast Yourself.”

The Hawaiian Learning Center Hosts Indigenous Taiwanese Students

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Indigenous Taiwanese students recently visited The Hawaiian Learning Center to learn about Native Hawaiian culture. The visit revealed a host of similarities between the two cultures.

use their heart to revitalize their culture, we must also use this to revitalize our culture,” said Kerikelilj Salinga, a fourth year law student. “We are in the same situation as the Hawaiians. We struggle for identity and we must do something to change that.”

“It was a great learning day for both cultures, as the similarities of what the Americans did to Hawaii and the Chinese did to Taiwan was shared in detail,” said Walter Ritte, the center’s director.

The purpose of the program is to enhance the student’s global perspectives, according to Ahyee Lee, the program director and an economics professor at Fu Jen Catholic University.

“The Austro-Asians are one big family that Taiwan is also a part of, so we bring the students here to visit their brothers and sisters,” said Lee.

During there time on Molokai the students learned about Hawaiian culture and sustainable living. Calaw is from the Amis tribe, who live in Taiwan’s coastal regions. Because of this, Calaw said he was particularly intrigued by the fishponds and the Hawaiian ways of managing and protecting its marine life.

“I would like to learn how the Hawaiians do this - and use those skills to revitalize Taiwan’s ocean life,” said Calaw. He is majoring in indigenous studies at Dong Hwa University, the only college in Taiwan to offer such a program.

The program is organized by Fu Jen Catholic University, but the students are indigenous Taiwanese students from various universities all over the province. This is the tenth year the university has taken students into the Pacific and the second time Fu Jen has brought students to Hawaii.

The group of Taiwanese students left Molokai last Friday afternoon. They will continue their learning experiences while staying at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Molokai Ranch to Lose Access to Molokai Irrigation System.

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Attorney General: Molokai Ranch must get off the Molokai Irrigation System until an environmental assessment has been completed.

Molokai Ranch must complete an environmental assessment in order to continue using the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS) to transport water to its west-end properties. A letter from the attorney general’s office said that the Ranch must get off the state run pipeline until the study is done.

In the letter, deputy attorney general, Myra M. Kaichi, said Molokai Ranch must remain off of the system “until all environmental effects, if any, are sufficiently and properly addressed.”

Vacation Rentals, Enforcement Top List of Concerns

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

Mayor Charmaine Tavares fulfilled one of her campaign promises last week, making Molokai one of the first places she visited during her inaugural term of office. Topping the list of discussion was the long standing issue illegal vacation rentals which the Mayor has vowed to assess.

The informal meeting was co-hosted by County Councilmember Danny Mateo and held in Kaunakakai School Cafeteria on Tuesday evening, August 28. It marked the first time in Hawaii that a district member and a county member have ever held a joint public meeting together.

“Hearing the same things at the same time will help us work together for you,” said Tavares.

The purpose of the town hall meeting was not to discuss taxes, the budget, or anything else specifically. Rather it was a forum where any member of the community could speak out on any issue of their preference.

“We’re not here to solve the problems tonight,” said Mateo. “We’re here to listen so we know what your concerns are when we go back into session.”

Vacation Rentals and Enforcement

In the first testimony heard, Cheryl Corbiell voiced her concerns over the dissipated tourism industry on Molokai. Corbiell is upset by the recent shutdown of many vacation rentals on the island, saying that the income from tourism is essential to the local economy.

“What is driving this?” asked Corbiell.

“Community complaints,” Mateo said in response. The crowd broke out in applause, and Mayor Tavares addressed the issue further.

“Vacation rentals are also against the law,” said Tavares. “If its time to change the law, we will but right now, it is what it is. Three planning commissions decided that vacation rentals are only allowed in specifically zoned areas.”

Those who operate vacation rentals illegally often go un-prosecuted due to lack of enforcement by Maui County officers. The county does currently only employs three officers for the entire county, which is not enough to properly impose zoning and building laws.

Real estate agent Diane Swenson stated that if the county was going to begin enforcing laws regarding vacation rental properties, to be fair, it should also start cracking down on residents who are illegally operating businesses out of their homes.

In addition to the vacation rental concerns, there was also concern amidst east end residents over illegal building on wetland properties on the east end.

Mahea Davis said that she obtained council to take legal action against people illegally building homes on wetlands in the east end. Construction on wetland properties is not permitted due to potential harm to the environment.

“The east end complaints are legitimate, especially with building on wetlands – which is unacceptable,” said Tavares. “We need to stiffen the fines so it hurts, and hopefully that will discourage people from building illegally.”

But builders cannot be fined if the laws are not enforced, which is why Davis also requested more enforcement on Molokai.

“The whole county has huge enforcement challenges,” said Tavares.

However, changes are being made. The Maui County budget for the 2008 fiscal year approved spending for the hiring of three new enforcement officers, doubling the force. Although none of the enforcers will be on island full time, the increase will allow for more regular visits to Molokai.


Many of concerns voiced were about Molokai’s keiki and their future.

One major concern was drug activity on the island. Wayde Lee, the director of Alu Like, Molokai, helps families and children with addiction issues and has seen how destructive drugs are first hand

“We fight so hard for the things we don’t agree on (La`au or the Plan) but we don’t fight so hard for the things we agree on, like drugs. We need more fighting against drugs so our families can be pono again,” said Lee.

Puolani Akaka is a 6th grade teacher on Molokai. She thanked the county for the support systems available for addicts and their families, but said that it was not enough. Akaka is concerned that there is not a youth therapeutic center on the island. Children suffering from ramifications of a family member’s addiction, such as reactive attachment disorder, they have no place to go for help.

Mahea Davis was also an advocate for the island’s children. She believes the county needs to provide more parks and playgrounds so that the keiki have a safe place to play. She also stated that a bikeway was needed in between urban areas and school, especially Ranch Camp and Kaunakakai School, in order to keep keiki from riding their bikes on dangerous roadways.

Davis brought up the need for on island vocational training for the community’s young men. She believes that this is greatly needed for the young fathers here who are trying to provide for their families.

The Aina, Ag & Animals

The land was also a key component of many of the issues brought up at the meeting.

Steve Morgan, Eddie Medeiros and Joe Pentak are all residents of the west end who asked the county to build a fire station in their area. It has been reported that the county was given two lots (five acres) by Molokai Ranch to build a station near the Moana Makani subdivision. The lots sit at the top of the hill at the corner of Hwy 460 and the road to Kaluakoi Resort. This same area burned in a brushfire earlier this summer.

East end residents voiced concern over the recreational use of Jet Ski’s and the effect it may be having on the fish.

Lori Buchanan said she would like for Molokai to have its own offices for the Dept. of Lands and the Dept. of Agriculture (DOA). As the local director of the Molokai/Maui Invasive Species Committee, Buchanan frequently receives calls to attend to matters that should be handled by the DOA.

“On an island that promotes agriculture, there is no Ag office, no Ag department, no Ag nothing for the past 10 years,” said Buchanan.

Monsanto’s genetically modified corn farm on Molokai is also an issue of concern that was voiced on several occasions last Tuesday night. Though it was recognized that the company employs many islanders, residents still have health and environmental fears of the genetically engineered plants.

“We are afraid of what is happening and we have no guarantee from the State or the feds that it is safe, there is no proof,” said Walter Ritte.

Animal control and support for the humane society on Molokai was also mentioned. Moke Kim said that he’s had 30 puppies at his house in the past six months. Molokai pet owners must take their animals off island to be spayed and neutered, which is expensive. Mateo said that there is money in the 2008 budget to establish a spay and neuter program on island.

Munitions Remain in Landfill and Elsewhere

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

There are still two piles of munitions remain in the scrap metal area of the Molokai Landfill, according to Hudson Kekaula, a program director for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. One pile was left in 2004 by the Army after a clean up of the Papohaku Ranchlands. The area is a former World War II bombing site and old ordnance was removed from the land in compliance with the Defense Environmental Restoration Program.

According to Kekaula, both piles of munitions in the landfill will be removed. While ordnance put in the landfill by the Army had been “demilitarized” and is considered safe, the origin of the second pile is unknown. What’s more, Kekaula said the Army is now unsure as to which pile was deemed “safe,” and so will be removing both piles.

A Hero at Kaunakakai School

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

DeCourcy receives "Everyday Heroes"award.

Kaunakakai Elementary School has a hero walking in its midst. First grade teacher Malia DeCourcy received the “Everyday Heroes” award during a school assembly last week.

Everyday Heroes is a teacher recognition program that takes place throughout Hawaii and is sponsored by Papa John’s Pizza. DeCourcy was awarded a $1000 check to spend as she chooses, as well as $100 Costco gift certificate to buy supplies for her classroom.

DeCourcy is one of 15 teachers selected from the over 600 who were nominated for the award. Janice Espiritu, the principal of Kaunakakai Elementary School nominated DeCourcy for the award because of her accomplishments in establishing community based education.

Senator Akaka visits Molokai Veterans

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Senator Akaka visits Molokai Veterans

Of particular concern for Molokai veterans was the fact that they must travel off island receive psychological counseling. During the meeting they were told that Veterans’ Affairs globally recognizes the increase in mental health problems from recent wars. Because of this there are plans to expand the mental health team. However, no promises were made as to when counseling would be available on island.

Since Akaka’s veteran’s bill passed last fall, the Veterans’ Affairs have received a raise in funding.

“The increase in funds allowed for a staffing increase which will help as we try to expand services,” said Akaka.

He stated that although he believes much has been improved for veterans in Hawaii since the fall of 2006, there are remaining challenges. Hearing issues first hand from veterans was Akaka’s main reason for visiting Molokai.

“It is so gracious of Sen. Akaka to come and listen to our island,” said county Sen. Danny Mateo. “These guys have real issues that the Veterans’ Affairs needs to address. The neighboring islands have been forgotten for a long time and Sen. Akaka is really trying to remedy that.”

Representatives from Veterans’ Affairs and the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs were also present and provided answers and resources. There were over 100 Molokai veterans present at the gathering.

“I feel strongly that after this meeting, you’re going to see some differences here,” said Sen. Akaka in closing.

2nd Annual Molokai Stampede

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

2nd Annual Molokai Stampede

Stampede! Paniolo from Molokai and the neighboring islands spent last weekend mounted up at Kapualei Ranch, roping cattle for fun and prizes.

Though it was primarily a team roping competition, the Molokai Stampede also hosted ladies barrel racing. Zhantell Dudoit took first place overall.

The rodeo was originally scheduled for last weekend, but was postponed due to hurricane Flossie. The delay caused some cowboys from neighboring islands to have to pull out of the competition. This is only the Molokai Stampede’s second year, but the Kapualei Ranch hopes that it will continue to grow and eventually be recognized state-wide.

An Optimistic Approach to Molokai’s Water Woes

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

An Optimistic Approach to Molokai’s Water Woes

Any veteran of meetings on Molokai can tell you that the water debate can get tense. On Saturday, August 18, the Department of Agriculture (DOA) took an initial step toward alleviating growing frustrations by listening to community concerns. The move came after a months of edgy meetings in which the Molokai Irrigation System board (MIS), Molokai Ranch, and Hawaiian homesteaders have debated water use issues.

Saturday’s meeting was specifically designed to foster better communication amongst all entities and individuals. DOA administrators hope the meetings will result in a guideline for the proper management of the Molokai Irrigation System. One issue at stake is a proposed agreement that would allow Molokai Ranch to use the MIS to transfer water to west Molokai for mixed usage – a proposal that homesteaders have threatened to litigate.

At the end of the meeting, a majority of attendees said that they were grateful for a chance to be heard and to participate in a plan which might benefit Molokai for generations to come.

“This kind of process has never been done on Molokai before,” said Adolph Helm, chairman of the MIS advisory board. “We have to do a better job to protect agriculture and the homesteaders, and we must build trust with one another.”

Members of the community who have been the most vocal about their concerns over water use and the MIS issues, were not able to attend Saturday’s meeting. Among the prominent members absent were Lynn DeCoite, Walter Ritte, Glenn Teves and Kammy Purdy.

Saturday’s meeting was the first of three. Upcoming meetings will address concerns relative to the MIS, including maintenance, the function of the advisory board and the direction the MIS and its users will head to in the future. The next meeting is on Sept. 8, with more details to follow. All are encouraged to come and participate.