By Wendy Osher
The state House unanimously passed a bill out of its chamber for the purchase of land at Lipoa Point on Maui for permanent preservation.
The measure would appropriate general obligation bonds for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, in consultation with the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, to purchase the parcel.
“Since 2007, the Mayor and the Council have consistently pledged $1 million for the acquisition of this land, but we cannot do it alone,” said Council Chair Gladys Baisa, who commended the house for passing the bill.
“The parcel was pledged against a pension fund,” said Baisa. Passage of this measure, she said, would not only ensure preservation and protection, but would also ensure the safety of pension benefits for hundreds of Maui Land & Pineapple Company retirees.
The measure now moves on to the Senate for consideration.
House Bill 1424 states the following:
The legislature finds that Lipoa Point-Honolua is one of the most iconic landmarks in Hawaii. Honolua is rich in marine resources and historical and archaeological sites, and is one of the most popular recreational areas for locals and tourists alike, offering some of the best snorkeling and surfing conditions on the island of Maui. Nationally recognized as a marine preserve, it has attracted federal funding and programs for having some of the highest fish assemblage characteristics of all the Hawaiian islands. Additionally, Honolua is considered to have one of the most diverse, unique, and abundant reef formations, providing habitat for rare coral species.
Historically, not only is Honolua Bay significant for Hawaiian canoe voyaging as being the departure point for the Hōkūle‘a maiden voyage in 1976, it is also the site of several archaeological finds that were identified by Bishop Museum staff in 1974, including two heiau, boulders with grinding surfaces, house platforms, burial mounds, and agriculture terraces.
The legislature further finds that due to its iconic reputation, Honolua Bay has drawn countless visitors to Hawaii, which helps generate revenue by bolstering the State’s important tourist industry. Honolua is known worldwide as a premier winter session, big wave surf spot, a sector of the surfing industry that is currently eclipsing the ASP world tour.
The legislature finds, however, that recent contemplation of zoning changes to the area have jeopardized the pension benefits for numerous retirees, as the parcel was pledged against a pension fund established by the retirees’ former employer in order to make sure that kupuna would continue to receive the benefits that they worked for. If this pension fund should fail, many of the pensioners would have to turn to state services and programs, thereby straining the social safety net, especially in an area where resources are scarce to begin with.
The legislature finds that acquiring this land for preservation would help protect the area’s pristine condition while providing funds to ensure the adequate capitalization of the pension fund. The legislature also finds that the owners of the land have pledged that any revenues derived from the sale of this parcel would be pledged completely against the pension fund, thereby alleviating concerns of the social safety net being stretched even further.
The purpose of this Act is to appropriate general obligation bonds for the department of land and natural resources, in consultation with Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, to engage in efforts to acquire the parcel of land located at Lipoa Point.