Water issues – A&B and the future of Maui

To understand the history of a water of an indigenous peoples is to look into a reflection pool in which we can see cultural practices, gathering, growing, and that which is to be respected as well as fiercely protected. Water is life. From the Mauna to Makai, from the rivers that flow down ancient volcanoes to meet the shore, sharing her bounty of food to be gathered along her course. At the end, the ocean where fishponds and taro fields received the Mauna’s gift. These practices sustained a population almost double that of todays Maui. They knew to never take more then was needed and kept constant maintenance of this most important resource.

For the last 120 years a company called Alexander and Baldwin has literally shut the water flow off at the source and used it to create the plantation way of life and sugar cane. Today, with the sugar cane industry has shut down on Maui, A&B are trying to maintain their hold of the water sources that are up for bid. Much like the fox guarding the vineyard they always have reserved more then they needed. At times they would release excess into spillway and not even into the streams and rivers.

The indigenous peoples of Maui are now fighting to regain their water flow. On Maui water was to be released, by A&B, to those growing taro downstream. Now it is released in such a slow trickle over sun baked rocks that it actually warms the water which then ‘cooks” the taro right in the earth. Most of the water shed/streams have become so neglected and horribly overgrown with invasive species so even when water is released it may have no where to flow. It is as if A&B were the worst tenants ever and Maui County forgot to collect a security deposit! Remember how “They” complained that when the sugar mill closed there would be job loss. Well how about A&B hiring them back to cleanup their mess.

So should A&B be allowed to retain these water rights? Do these rights go back to the people? This is the question. This decision will affect the use of the lands on Maui for 100 years to come! We believe that this question should be approached once both side have equal footing in the issue. “So, since A&B had it for 120 years, lets give it to the people for 120 years and then we can start talks. That would be an equal starting point.” stated Lorrin Peng.

Since that is not going to happen anytime soon SHAKA Movement opposes the proposal. We have reviewed and agree with the comments received from The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, and the attorney Isaac Hall, whose views we are fully aligned with. (See attached.)

Here are a few additional recommendations SHAKA thinks are relevant when taking this proposal into consideration;

1) Many of us feel that the company has not fulfilled it’s trust responsibility for the resources it exploited for the benefit of it’s shareholders as defined by the State Constitution. Additionally, as cited in the statement of Isaac Hall, it would be our position that the 30% of the gains to the company during this period, due under State Law to the Native Hawaiian community have not been paid. This represents a significant additional responsibility that A&B will need to address before their application for more water is even considered.

2) Additionally we are of the firm belief that an inventory of the state of our island’s waters would need to be done to properly assess the degree to which they may have been polluted or contaminated by their actions. To us, if such a study were to be done, and chemical contamination of these vital resources found on the land they have been utilizing, that payment for the full complete remediation of these harms would also need to be addressed before any further allocation of new leases or rights could be considered.

3) Lastly for the company to begin to address the harms caused to the original inhabitants of these islands and their descendants from the time of the “annexation” of these islands (as recognized by the United States Government, Public Law 103-150), it’s time for the company look at giving back (as opposed to taking even more from) the local community.

In this regard we would recommend the low cost transfer of land, with small housing construction subsidies to those who prove Native Hawaiian ancestry, for the purposes of sustainable, traditional Hawaiian farming practices to feed the island’s residents. This would be a far, higher, more just and more humane “transition” than what has been requested in the proposed lease.

Beth Savitt
SHAKA President

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