Community Seeks to Buy Out Molokai Ranch
For decades, residents of Molokai have fought to stop resort development on their rural island. Now the community is launching what they believe will be a final solution: a campaign to purchase Molokai Properties Ltd. (known locally as “Molokai Ranch”) and create a community-based company to own and manage these lands. The campaign plans to raise $200 million, starting with the community itself.
Island residents first decided to purchase Molokai Ranch lands in 1998, when the idea emerged as the top goal in a strategic plan that won the island federal recognition as one of 20 Enterprise Communities (EC) in the nation. Hundreds of individuals and businesses across the island participated in identifying and approving the projects that created the original “EC” plan. Bringing ownership of the island home to its residents was seen as the only way to guarantee that all of the projects could be completed.
The “Buy the Ranch” campaign will be led by the Molokai Community Service Council (MCSC), a non-profit organization that has served the Molokai community since 1974. MCSC coordinated the 1998 community planning process and prepared the federal application that won Molokai’s designation as an Enterprise Community. While raising funds to buy the Ranch, MCSC will work with the community to create a new entity to own the lands after the purchase.
“Molokai is truly the last Hawaiian island,” says MCSC Executive Director Karen Holt, “and the only way to protect its culture, lifestyle and natural resources is for people who live here to determine what will be done with our land. Buying Molokai Ranch was seen as important in 1998, and it’s even more important today.”
In the past year, MPL’s plan to develop 200 luxury homes on Molokai’s La`au Point has become a bitter dispute on the island. In exchange for support of their “master plan” to develop Molokai’s west end, MPL has offered to transfer 26,000 acres of largely undevelopable property to a community land trust.
"Buying the Ranch will let our community make the choice on how we want our island developed," said Kammy Purdy, President of the Ahupua'a O Moloka'i Homestead Associations. "I've already put my money where my mouth is by donating $100. I challenge everyone else to meet my pledge!"
MPL is currently owned by the Guoco Group, a multinational investment group based in Hong Kong. Its assets include 65,000 acres (nearly one-third of the island), the Lodge at Molokai Ranch, 3 tent lodging facilities, two golf courses and the Kaluakoi Hotel which has been closed since 2001. The company also leases property to various businesses.
After the purchase, Molokai Ranch’s existing commercial activities will be kept intact, and managed by the community-based company. MPL’s current jobs will be saved, and profits will be reinvested in community programs. Under community ownership, the business would stop developing resort projects and would stop the practice of selling land to outside speculators. And if any new development is proposed, it would be the community that decides whether the island has enough sustainable resources, like water, to support it.
This isn't the first time people on Molokai residents have come together to create something for their community. In 1962, the original Molokai General Hospital was built with payroll deductions and contributions from residents.
“We’re not kidding ourselves,” Holt acknowledges. “Two hundred million is a lot of money. But everyone knows that Molokai will fight hard for what we believe in, and this is one fight that finally puts all of us on the same side.”
People wishing to contribute to the Buy the Ranch campaign can donate online at www.molokai.org or by mailing a check to "Buy the Ranch," care of MCSC, P.O. Box 2047, Kaunakakai, Hawaii, 96748.
A community meeting to launch the Buy the Ranch campaign will be held Wednesday, July 11, at 5:30 PM at Kulana Oiwi on Molokai.