DLNR Listening Session Identifies Molokai Concerns

DLNR News Release 

On Saturday, Sept. 30, about 45 Molokai residents spent the morning shoulder-to-shoulder in a circle with DLNR, including Chair Dawn Chang, Deputy Director Laura Kaakua, and nine of 11 division administrators and staff.

Zahn Dudoit, who facilitated the session, told the gathering this was the first time anyone can remember so many top DLNR leaders arriving on the island to talk story.

In opening remarks, Chang explained DLNR’s overriding mission of protecting the natural and cultural resources of Hawaii. 

After brief presentations from division administrators and staff, Molokai residents brought up some of the issues the island is facing. Most dealt with water, mauka to makai.

Native Hawaiian activist and educator Walter Ritte provided Chang with studies, some of which are more than two decades old and encouraged Chang to develop task forces to address persistent issues.

“On Molokai we have two economies. One is the cash economy and the other one is the subsistence economy.  So, we’ve been having a really hard time getting that message out to the state. But that message really needs to be ingrained in DLNR, because DLNR plays a huge role in our subsistence economy,” Ritte explained.

Russel G.K. Phiser described community efforts to take care of a portion of reef that has not been degraded by erosion or sedimentation.

Another speaker Donna Paoa added, “I’ve lived in the same house for 50 years at Kawela. The sediment from Kawela Stream, which is actually a river, is what killed reefs out in front of Kawela. Mauka to makai is of course where the issue stems.”  

With much of the focus of the meeting on west Molokai, Lori Buchanan turned attention to east Molokai, and Halawa in particular. 

“All the conservation district types of uses where people are doing whatever they are not supposed to do. Who’s the 911 again?” she said.

Other issues raised spanned from needing additional DLNR staff on Molokai, to fishing regulations, to Axis deer overpopulation and driving dangers, to delays in members being approved to sit on the Molokai Island Burial Council.

The meeting concluded with Deputy Kaakua committing to post summary notes on DLNR’s website shortly, and DLNR administrators and staff working to improve the identified issues.

Chang concluded, “We felt it was important to start with Molokai and the experience there has provided us with an opportunity to refine and enhance how these sessions run, to ensure that sharing and listening are maximized.”


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