La`au Point

Maui County’s Top Officials to Meet with Molokai Community over Ranch Water Shutdown

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Wailuku, Maui Council Member Danny Mateo and Mayor Charmaine Tavares announced today they will host a community meeting on Molokai on Tuesday, July 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai.

"In light of the announcement by Molokai Properties that it will stop providing water and wastewater services at the end of August, we would like to assure Molokai that the County is doing everything possible to protect the community’s rights to essential needs such as water and sewer service," said Council Member Mateo.

Mayor Tavares said, "This is a very serious situation. Both Council Member Mateo and my administration have been addressing the situation since Molokai Properties made its announcement. I look forward to meeting with the community to provide as much information as possible."

Molokai Water And Sewer Problems

Friday, June 20th, 2008

Via Hawaii Public Radio: Since its formation in 1897, Molokai Ranch has evolved through numerous enterprises including ranching, pineapple and, most recently, tourism, in its efforts to remain afloat.  This past April, Molokai Ranch and Molokai Properties Ltd. abruptly shut down, threatening water and sewer services to about a third of the island.  HPR's Noe Tanigawa spent a day with activists who helped precipitate the Ranch's most recent demise and are now proposing a way for the future.

Listen to the program at:

or Download mp3
Runs: 3:57

Guest Commentary

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Reprinted with permission by Howard Dicus. The photo inserted by Dispatch Staff.

Mr. Dicus is a seasoned expert in Hawaii business matters.

He was a reporter for the Pacific Business News for several years before joining KGMB Channel 9, where he can be seen on the "Sunrise" morning TV show airing Monday-Friday, 4:30 am-8 am.

Mr Dicus also has a weekly business show on PBS called "Everybody's Business", which can be seen on PBS Fridays at 7:30 pm.



By Howard Dicus

Outrigger is closing a Waikiki hotel, probably for more than a year, to thoroughly renovate it. No one is being laid off.

Molokai Ranch is shutting down and laying off 120 people after seeing it might not win immediate approval to build hundreds of homes on the southwest corner of Molokai, around La’au Point.

What’s the difference between the two companies? The answer turns out not to be financial health, because there is way more wealth behind Molokai Ranch than behind Outrigger.

The difference is that Outrigger is based in Hawaii while the ultimate owner of Molokai Ranch lives in Malaysia.

I’m not saying (the Ranch owner) is some kind of evil guy, only that it’s human nature to care about what happens in your backyard and less about stuff that happens several time zones away from you.

Molokai Ranch is owned by Molokai Properties Limited, and it in turn is owned by GuocoLeisure, an international investment company based in Singapore.

GuocoLeisure’s parent company Guoco Group is traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, but its ultimate holding company is Hong Leong Co. of Malaysia.

The top five executives of GuocoLeisure make $500,000 a year or more. Deputy Chairman Philip Burdon is a former New Zealand minister of commerce.





Billionaire Quek Leng Chan, Chairman GuocoLeisure.

The man at the top of this empire is Quek Leng Chan, whose net worth, according to Forbes magazine, is $2.9 billion.

Guoco Leisure describes itself as “an active investor with strategic shareholdings and active investment management aimed at extracting and maximizing shareholder value.”

It owns or operates 39 hotels in Britain, owns a resort on Fiji, and has a stake in some oil and gas holdings in Australia.

In 2007 the company made a profit of $13 million, down from $57 million in 2006. It said in its annual report that the Molokai operation would remain cash positive through 2007 through the sale of “non-strategic subdivided land” and the sale of a large agricultural parcel to Monsanto.

The parent of the parent, Hong Leong Group, is one of the largest conglomerates in Malaysia, into construction materials, furniture and newsprint. It owns one of the world’s largest semiconductor subcontract assembly operators. It is the Malaysian maker of Yamaha motorcycles.

My take on the tycoon, based on his own publicity, is that he might easily have bought Molokai Ranch and turned it over to the residents of Molokai as a charitable act if it had occurred to him or been presented to him that way. Instead it was presented as a development investment so he and the rest of the company have been focused on “extracting value.”

There was anguish over the La’au Point proposal even before the opposition to it cost (the community) 120 jobs. Opponents knew all the people who work for the Ranch — everybody knows everybody on Molokai, which has a population of only 7,000. They knew the company wasn’t happy with subsidizing its hotel, golf and ranching operations with land sales.

I’m not sure opponents thought the owners would close everything, even though they threatened to more than once, perhaps believing that no business could be so petulant.

It could. It not only announced full closure (of Ranch operations), it made a point of saying it would padlock the gates, which means it will be limiting access to La’au Point. I’ve walked out to La’au Point and the only reasonable way to get there begins with a drive over roads on Molokai Ranch property.

Outrigger, by contrast, has worked hard through the entire Beach Walk renovation to save as many jobs as possible, and has some very loyal employees as a result.

In fairness, Molokai Ranch employees were loyal, too, working gently but persuasively in the community to argue that 200 homes at La’au Point, coupled with the permanent set-aside of a very large amount of land, would be a better outcome than anything else that might happen.

They failed to persuade the community only because the compromise seemed based on a sense of the inevitability of development and the unavoidable change to way-of-life, and residents just weren’t ready to accept that.

If Quek Leng Chan lived on a beautiful island like Molokai, he might not find it easy to take, either.


Molokai Enterprise Community Plans to Cancel Public Elections

Sunday, May 18th, 2008

Letting a little “sunshine” in on the sun-setting agency.

By Brandon Roberts

Molokai Enterprise Community (EC) will lose it’s federal funding status later this year on Dec. 24, at which time it will continue on as Ke Aupuni Lokahi (KAL). According EC interim director and president, Stacy Crivello, any remaining grant money will be lost if it is not spent by this date.

In light of the looming deadline, EC interim director and president, Stacy Crivello, is pushing the board of directors to amend the EC by-laws to allow a cancellation publicly held annual elections. Crivello said that it was not the time to bring in new board members when the EC must appropriate and spend its remaining funds.

Ranch to Abandon Water Operations

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

County will be left responsible with servicing west end users.

By Todd Yamashita and Brandon Roberts

Molokai Ranch will let funding for West Molokai water operations run dry within four to six months, leaving Maui County responsible for operating the abandoned water system, said the new Director for Hawaii State Office of Planning Abbey Mayer during a community meeting last week.

Most of West End’s drinking water comes from the Ranch’s well 17in Kualapu`u, passing through the Molokai Irrigation System (MIS) in Ho`olehua, and on to a treatment plant in Maunaloa. According to Mayer, Molokai Ranch uses several regulated and unregulated subsidiary companies to manage this and all other Ranch water systems.

Life After the Ranch

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Where is Molokai two months after the shutdown?

By Brandon Roberts and Todd Yamashita

While Monsanto and ex-Molokai Ranch workers rallied with signs drawing attention to job loss on Molokai, lawmakers and community leaders nearby discussed strategies which might help the workers get back on their feet.

The Ranch has opened its doors solely for ex-employees to lease Ranch related businesses and to hunt Ranch lands for subsistence, according to Abbey Mayer, director of the state Office of Planning.

Of the roughly 120 workers laid off by Molokai Ranch only five percent have found employment, according to Mayer.

Representatives from the Molokai unemployment office and MedQuest said they have seen no increase in requests for service, but expect it to increase by the end of the month. Unemployment for Ranch workers will begin May 22.

Molokai Enterprise Community Plans to Cancel Public Elections

Friday, May 9th, 2008

(UPDATED 5/10/2008) KAUNAKAKAI, HAWAI'I:  On the eve of its tenth and final year of federal funding, the Moloka'i Enterprise Community (EC), Ke Aupuni Lōkahi, Inc., is taking final steps to exclude the community from its board by planning to cancel regularly held elections.

On April 17, in a meeting that was closed to the public, the board split 5-4 on the question of voting electronically to cancel the already over-due election, according to EC board member Bridget Mowat.


The organization's bylaws require annual elections.  This year's election was slated to be held in January or February of 2008, when the terms of office for four of the board members expired.  The EC board is required by federal law to have 55% of its members elected to their seats by the general public.  Six residents had announced their candidacies for the each of the vacant seats.

Molokai – long been consistent on its vision

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

Molokai – long been consistent on its vision

By DeGray Vanderbilt

An Advertiser editorial ("Molokai residents must be vested in island future," March 28) suggested that our Molokai community needs to determine what it wants in the wake of the Molokai Ranch shutdown.

Molokai knows what it wants, and has known for a long while.

I've lived on Molokai 30 years. During that time Molokai has been consistent on the vision it sees for future generations.

This vision has been promoted in a wide range of state and county planning documents since 1980. It's a vision based on long-term sustainability and living within one's means.

Unfortunately, over the years, off-island corporate entities have not taken Molokai's vision seriously and have underestimated the depth of our community's commitment to perpetuate its unique lifestyle.

A recent example is the controversial La`au Point project, which Molokai Ranch and its billion-dollar Malaysian-based owner GuocoLeisure tried to force on our community despite overwhelming community opposition.

This project would have been the largest coastal subdivision ever developed in the state, running along 5.5 miles of undeveloped, pristine coastline. Ranch executives boasted the project would be marketed to "pentamillionaires" seeking a second or third home.

In addition to La`au, Molokai Ranch wanted to keep its existing entitlements at the Kaluakoi Resort for six hotels, three condominium projects, 21 acres of undeveloped commercial lands, and planned areas for hundreds of additional luxury houses.

But Molokai refused to buy into La`au Point. The community remained true to its vision and refused to sell out for the "carrot" that promised a loosely defined quick fix.

As a result, Molokai's sustainable vision still remains active with dedicated community support, as residents watch the unrelenting exploitation throughout the state of working families, the environment and the aloha spirit by those who already have enough.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Hawai'i was filled with sustainable communities. No one had much money, but most led a rich lifestyle. Back then, a family could afford a decent house and lot even though wages were low. Things were in balance.

But no more.

Anger and resentment continue to swell today as our state tumbles out of balance, as it moves more and more toward a two-class society.

But Molokai's tight community has refused to go down that road. On Molokai, things have remained relatively in balance compared with the rest of the state.

Molokai is the last island still under control of the "local" population. This is why Molokai remains the "Friendly Island." It is this control factor that keeps people smiling, and allows residents to continue believing things will be done right on Molokai so that our island's unique local lifestyle is sustained for future generations to enjoy.

In recent weeks community groups, including a dedicated coalition of young adults 25 to 35 years old, have been working overtime in an effort to buy the entire 60,000-acre Molokai Ranch property.

Within 10 days of Molokai Ranch's March 24 shutdown notice, the community published a document entitled "Molokai, future of a Hawaiian island." The report reveals the community's unwavering vision for the future.

This document is key to our community's quest to purchase the Ranch.

The price?

GuocoLeisure (formerly BIL International Limited) has been trying to unload its Molokai property for more than a decade without success.

The company's estimated book value for its remaining Molokai property is between $200 million and $250 million.

GuocoLeisure has not disclosed whether it will sell its property as a package to the highest bidder or sell off its land parcels piecemeal.

Significant uncertainties associated with the Ranch's water resources will certainly affect anticipated land-sale revenues.

Those buying any Ranch land will be purchasing it "as is." "Buyer beware" takes on special meaning for anyone looking to pick up a "sweet deal," especially if that deal is at our community's expense.

The community is working hard toward its purchase goal, and has a pledge for $50 million from UPC Wind. Since the Ranch shutdown, calls have come in from several major potential donors.

Some say the community has only a short window of opportunity to act on buying the Ranch. Hopefully, GuocoLeisure will expand that window of opportunity and agree to work with the community for a reasonable time to implement a win-win situation for Molokai, and for GuocoLeisure's shareholders.

I believe that if GuocoLeisure is willing to enter into a negotiated sale with the community, the $50 million already pledged will be matched by other $50 million dollar pledges and GuocoLeisure will end up walking away with a transaction that is best for the company's shareholders and its corporate image worldwide.

DeGray Vanderbilt recently stepped down as chairman of the Molokai Planning Commission and was a member of the committee that developed the master land-use plan for Molokai Ranch. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.

What’s Blowin On

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

What’s Blowin On

Here is a rendering of what the UPC wind farm would look like on Molokai.

Community forum hosts talks about Molokai wind-farm.

By Brandon Roberts

Renewable energy is a Hawaiian value in that it aims at harnessing the gift of nature without depleting it. But is the greater community willing to tap Molokai’s steady wind resources at the sacrifice of building a large scale wind farm?

For the past several weeks, it has been the mission of Molokai youth to gauge the community’s acceptance of the potential wind farm. Forums have already been held in Kilohana, Kaunakakai, Ho`olehua and Maunaloa.

“Ask the hard questions,” youth organizer Matt Yamashita told community members. “What vision are we going to put forth to create a future that fits with what we believe the potential of this island is. We are not representing UPC; we just created the space to have this dialogue.”

Numerous concerns surround this development proposal, and Molokai asked the crucial question: Are there benefits to the community?

Will UPC Hawaii Wind bring jobs to folks on the Friendly Isle? UPC says maybe for the construction, but only a skeleton crew is required for the remaining 20 years. (They did agree to sign a contract not use potable water from the island during construction.)

Will UPC lower electricity rates on Molokai? No guarantee. There are many problems with hooking a variable source, like wind, up to the current diesel plant, and the proposal is a one-way cable to Oahu for Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO).

“There are some big ‘ifs’ with this project; one is gaining control of the lands, second is the undersea cable and third is whether our bid to HECO would be accepted,” said Wren Wescoatt, development specialist.

Would the project prevent access to the land for hunting or recreation? According to UPC, the project would prevent other types of development on thousands of acres while providing a source of community revenue. Pre-existing uses of the land would continue once the construction was completed. At the end of the lease, the windmills would be completely removed.

Can a deal be struck quickly between UPC and Guoco Leisure? There is no guarantee, and UPC has been in discussions since 2006.

How will money come back to the community? UPC has committed $50 million toward Ho`i I Ka Pono (to restore righteousness or balance), a campaign led by the Molokai Community Service Council (MCSC) to purchase all of the lands now owned by Molokai Ranch. UPC would lease the land from MCSC, which could amount to five million dollars per year.

How close would the windmill be to a home? No turbine would be constructed within a half mile of residencies, and the Liberty units have an extremely low noise output, rotating at 21 times per minute, though they are a skyscraping 400 feet tall.

Representative Mele Carroll said that it is “brilliant that young people are doing this; it is creating leaders.” She met with UPC planners earlier and said that the company has many potential opportunities for Molokai.

“UPC combines technology with Molokai island values,” said Noe Kalipi, UPC director of community relations. Statistically speaking, one mega-watt (MW) hour of energy saves 17,000 lbs of carbon dioxide. The power plant on Molokai burns around one million gallons of diesel fuel every year.

Kalipi said there is a seriousness and legitimacy to this project. “We want to have transparency, which is fluid, we want to establish and ongoing dialogue. UPC is a community conscious and a community based company.” UPC began meeting with Molokai leaders in 2006.

The proposed Ikaika (energy) project is under discussion with Molokai homesteaders and the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, and would use 20 windmills and produce 50 MW. Ikaika II, which would be on 12,000 acres spanning between Ho`olehua and Ilio Point on Molokai’s rugged northwestern coast line. Both projects could produce a combined 350 MW.

Castle and Cook, which is owned by David Murdock, has a wind-farm project that is moving ahead on Lanai, despite failed legislation to fast track the project. They will submit a bid to HECO as well.

“UPC has an incentive to do things right, as we are accountable to the communities we join for the life of our project,” Kalipi said, emphasizing the UPC mission.

“We are creating a future for this island,” said Matt Yamashita, holding onto the idea of finding a common ground.

“We have within us the will, the mana, the smarts, and the commitment to create something we can all be happy with,” said Akutagawa. “And then the scars in our heart will heal, and we can look at each other and say aloha.”

Any questions regarding the community forums can be directed to Information on UPC Wind can be found at, and the Molokai Community Service Council can be reached at

Molokai Ranch’s Cut Coconut Trees – The Other Side of The Story

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Molokai Ranch’s Cut Coconut Trees – The Other Side of The Story

I may not have been around the Kaluakoi Golf Course as long as most homeowners on the west end, but I have been around the maintenance shop long enough to understand its operations and long enough to know the dedicated crew who works there. They take pride in what they do and have worked hard to bring the eighteen hole Kaluakoi Golf Course back to what it is today.

At one time, the superintendent who oversees these workers had a staff of eleven. This number has since dwindled to only five who have had to rely on close teamwork in order to maintain all 18 holes of the course.

Why would the course staff want to destroy their own hard work and the beautiful landscaping at Kaluakoi? One homeowner suggested it was vengeance, and that employees were acting out on their own because of the shut down. Hello! This is property damage and something that this crew would never attempt.

In fact, condo owners residing along hole 17 know about property damage. At one time they took it upon themselves to cut trees that were not on their property to get a better view of the fairway and green.

In light of the popularity that the ranch has been receiving I don’t expect community approval on much that the Ranch is doing. I am however appalled by the actions of the homeowners towards the staff. While a few homeowners have been sympathetic, many have acted out towards the staff yelling and hollering at them.

One resident confronted the backhoe operator that was moving tree trunks and refused to move out of the way. Others have argued for various solutions which just would not have worked.

There are two sides to the story to what happened. The workers are just as much being affected by the cutting of the coconut trees as the homeowners. The employees were under the pressure of a time frame to have things completed. It was explained that the taller trees posed a safety hazard. Since these trees were eventually going to be cut it makes sense that they be utilized to secure accessible areas of the golf course.

Please know that Ranch employees are hard working people who care for the environment as much as anyone on Molokai. Many of us have kept open minds about how to move forward during these difficult times – at this point, your patience and respect can go a long way in helping us toward this goal. 

Cathy Kawamae