Residents testifying at 5-hour Molokai Planning Commission meeting target many issues raised in Ranch document. Alternative to La’au development urged.

“What’s the difference in the last couple of years when the Department of Hawaiian Homes denied our family’s request to subdivide our homestead lot because of the lack of water, and now Molokai Ranch is proposing to use our water to develop 200 lots at La’au,” questioned Noa Horner, one of six children raised by Roy and Faith Horner on the family’s 40-acre homestead lot in Ho’olehua.

Molokai’s limited water resource was just one of several issues in Molokai Ranch’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that was questioned by residents during the Molokai Planning Commission’s lengthy January 24 meeting held at Mitchell Pauole Center.

Other issues charged with being inadequate or misleading included social and cultural impacts, economics, access to the shoreline, the community’s involvement in developing the plan, sustained agricultural, lack of legal documents to support the Ranch’s intentions under the plan, the environment, the endangered monk seal population at La’au, quality of life, and the effect the La’au development will have on Hawaiians from within.

Molokai Ranch, in partnership with the Molokai Enterprise Community and the EC's Land Use Committee, worked for two-years in developing the proposed Master Plan for Molokai Ranch’s land holdings. The two most controversial issues surrounding the plan are water and the development of an oceanfront, luxury residential subdivision along six miles of the pristine western and southern shorelines that intersect at La’au Point.

Water and La'au Point were hot issues from the start, yet Molokai Ranch CEO Peter Nicholas did not want to address these issues until the end of the process. Nicolas has recently been promoted by Ranch parent company Brierley Investments to help out with that company’s flagship properties in London, England.

Throughout the evening testifiers commented on the issues: “Where’s the water, our streams are drying up”….our kids need more activities so we need more big homes, rich homes, fabulous homes so our kids can go maha’oi ”….”.Molokai is the last Hawaiian Place in the world”…..”Not only is Molokai the best place to raise our kids, but we are the luckiest people in the Hawaiian Islands”…..”People die for the desert, people die for the Arctic, and do you think we’re gonna give away paradise??Hell No!”…….”our Hawaiian people never say anything and that’s why we lost everything”….”There’s got to be an alternative to La’au, we’ve just got to work hard to find one.”


Opuulani Albino, whose family goes back six generations from the time her Kupuna came to Molokai from Waikapu, felt the cultural impact issue wasn’t addressed “in a complete manner”. Albino said that her family does not support the planned development for La’au.

Albino testified that she had seen the Ranch’s plans for La’au early in the process when she was a member of the Burial Council for Molokai. “I thought the Ranch would not go through with its La’au Point plan because of the concerns about the development expressed by our Burial Council.”

Concerns over the desecration of the La’au Point area with the development of luxury housing touched a nerve with several testifiers. “How you going to preserve La’au and still build your million dollars homes there?” questioned Josh Pastrana. “That area is full of wahipana (sacred sites). The desecration of our kupuna’s iwi has got to stop…it’s not Pono. There some places you can’t go and some things you just can’t have.”

Lawrence Aki, a Native Hawaiian and member of the EC’s Land Use Committee that worked for two years on the Master Plan, felt La’au was not a place to develop.

While training as an Hawaiian Aki said he was always told, “when the intellect is in trouble with the intuition then something is wrong and when the na’au is not feeling good then there is definitely something wrong.”

Aki was one of six members of the EC’s Land Use Committee who voted against recommending approval to the EC Board of the Ranch Master Plan. Others not voting for the plan basically because of the plan’s La’au component were Moke Kim, DeGray Vanderbilt, Kekama Helm, Walter Ritte, and Halona Kaopuiki. Two other members abstained from voting, Matt Yamashita and Davianna McGregor. Kaopuki has since changed his stance and supports the development of La`au.


“I’m here for agriculture,” announced homesteader Martin Kahae. “Money is threatening our agricultural water. When I see what’s going on with La’au I’m thinking that people have killed agriculture with La’au….its almost like the ranch gave up on agriculture.”

One testifier claimed that at a public meeting, Molokai Ranch CEO Peter Nicholas told him, “agriculture is dead here (on Molokai)”.

Kahae’s goals are consistent with the goals for agriculture set forth in the Molokai Community Plan and the Maui County General Plan. Not only is the preservation of agricultural lands a priority in these documents, but also the need to preserve Molokai’s water resources so that these agricultural lands will be able to be productive in the future is a stated objective.

And that’s where the problem comes in according to Glenn Teves. “ We’re in the middle of a serious water crisis,” claimed Teves, a homesteader who has been reviewing Environmental Impact Statements for 30 years. “The Ranch’s DEIS confirms that the company has no commitment for water, no alternatives for water and their stated estimates of water needs for La’au and their Master Plan are purposely low to sell their plan to the community.”

West end resident Steve Morgan unveiled a display map that opened some eyes about water needs at the Kaluakoi Resort that have not been accounted for in the Ranch’s water needs assessment.

The map revealed that on lands owned by the ranch north of the existing Kaluakoi hotel site, there are six undeveloped and zoned hotel sites, along with a multitude of undeveloped commercial, residential, rural and multi-family sites that are designated for development in Molokai’s current community plan. When developed, these properties could result in more than three times as many house lots as being proposed at La’au.

On top of these ranch development opportunities, Morgan stated that the existing large agricultural lots in the Moana Makani and Papohaku Ranchland Subdivisions can legally be subdivided. There are 306 existing large ag lots in these two subdivisions covering 4,500 acres of Kaluakoi resort land. Further subdivision could potentially lead to a total of over 1,500 homes being developed in these two exisiting subdivisions – in addition to the development of La`au Point.

The DEIS document reflects that the existing homeowners in these ag subdivisions use 3,000 gallons of water each day.

Morgan’s display map was entitled “One Last Development?”, a take on how the Ranch initially portrayed the La’au Point development.

“Is this one last development?”, questioned Penny Martin, a homesteader who was inspired to testify while listening to others. “Hasn’t every development on Molokai been the last development?”

The Ranch should have talked about the water first”, said Wayde Lee. “I’d be a hypocrite if I would say one last development for all the time I stood and testified that there’s not enough water and now I’m going to say get enough water for La’au”.


Many testifiers focused on their objections on one component of the Plan and the rippling impacts that it would have on the entire island. That component is the luxury home development along the unspoiled shorelines surrounding La’au Point that potentially could be the site of 400 luxury homes.

Some testifiers said it seemed that if you are against La’au that means you are against the ranch’s Master Plan. For most this is not the case. La’au is the hot button issue.

Jane Lee, who described herself as “one of the old warriors,” thanked Akaku for televising so many of the La’au Point meetings so that those unable to attend the meetings regularly could be kept informed.

“We’re shut-ins,” Lee said.” Sometimes we can’t come to the meetings because we’re not well enough or by nighttime we go down with the sun.”

Lee said that that she was not for the La’au Point plan. She said she didn’t take that position from the beginning, but only after I listened to “the debates and discussions”.

Lee expressed how painful it is for her to witness the split in among the activist leaders in the community who fought so hard to preserve Molokai’s traditions and lifestyle. “Together they were a mighty force, “ she said. “Separated it is very confusing because they both know each others strategies.”

“Instead of beefing with each other let’s come up with a plan that we can agree on”, urged Lee. “We have not really worked on an alternative to the La’au development.”

Noa Horner threw out a question to the Ranch representatives sitting in the audience. “Is La`au the only out for the Ranch as far opening the Kaluakoi hotel, or might their be other ways to financially supporting the opening of the hotel?”

Makaila Purdy said she and most people she knows support the hotel, but she seemed to feel that the ranch was using the hotel improperly to leverage the need for its plans at La’au. She asked why the ranch was so secretive about a recent golf tournament to support the reopening of the Kaluakoi hotel.

Purdy also said she attended several meetings and often heard Peter Nicholas, the Ranch’s CEO, say “the community was to decide if the La’au Point development was to be approved or disapproved.” She wondered what happened to that plan.


Despite all the concerns expressed over La'au Point, a ray of hope seemed to shine through that an alternative to the La’au Point component to the Master Plan could be found. This hope was summed up not only in the testimony of kupuna Jane Lee, but also in the heartfelt remarks of an 8-year-old who already fears for the impacts on her lifestyle now – and into the future.

Said Lee: “I think given the people on both sides of the La’au issue and how creative and innovative they are and how they know our island works, they can come up with something much, much better that fits our island….something we all can support, built with the spirit of Molokai….something that allows us to preserve what we love best about this island,”

That sentiment was echoed by 8-year-old Kamaleihiwa Purdy, who made the long march to La’au with 400 others recently to express their love for the ‘aina and their concerns for the development planned. Kamaleihiwa’s testimony was simple, but to the point.

“Malama La`au,” she urged.


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