Maui Business

Maui Sand Mining Lawsuit Filed in Environmental Court

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Mālama Kakanilua and members Clare H. Apana and Kaniloa Kamaunu filed suit against Maui Lani Partners’ sand mining operations with Maui’s Environmental Court on Thursday afternoon, July 27, 2017.


The complaint alleges Maui Lani Partners is continuing “ground disturbing activities” at its Maui Lani Phase IX site, claiming the work is in violation of Hawai‘i’s historic preservation laws, County grading permits, County zoning laws, and the public trust.

The members are also seeking a 10 day stay and an injunction to stop all work at the Maui Lani Project Phase IX site “until Maui Lani Partners complies with its archaeological monitoring plan.”

Mālama Kakanilua is a hui formed years ago to protect ‘iwi, burials, and other historic and archaeologically sites in Maui County. The group is named for Kakanilua, a famous battle that occurred in the sand hills of Central Maui.

“It has been over ten years, we have been asking Maui Lani Partners and state entities to protect the ‘iwi kupuna, these ancient burials of the sandhills of Maui,” said Apana, a cultural practitioner and founding member of Mālama Kakanilua.


Annette Heu, a member of Mālama Kakanilua also commented saying, “I want my children to grow up and know and be proud of the history of this place. With our actions, the ‘iwi kupuna will know that someone cared about them.”

In recent months, Maui County Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons said the practice of excavating Maui Inland sand and shipping it to Oʻahu first came to light for him in 2003, his first year he was appointed by Mayor Arakawa. In April, Arakawa explained that construction projects were stalled when the recession hit, so sand mining wasn’t as a pressing concern when he started his second term.  He said that with the economy back in gear, it has become an issue once again.

In July, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs called upon Maui Lani Partners to temporarily cease all sand and other resource extraction and grading.

Maui Now sought comment this morning from Maui Lani, but did not receive a response by the time this story went to publication (*We will amend appropriately if comment is received later today).


Comment was also sought from the County of Maui, who was named in the lawsuit as well.  County Communications Director Rod Antone responded this afternoon saying, “We can’t comment on any pending litigation.”

According to an investigative report filed by KHON2, shared ownership interests connected a Maui Lani developer to an excavation company that sold millions of dollars worth of cement to the Honolulu rail project.  The same report noted that Maui Lani has said all earth-moving activities are done under archaeological monitoring.

Those filing the lawsuit say that despite a warning from issued to Maui Lani Partners on April 28, 2017, community members have since reported seeing sand hauled away from the Maui Lani Project areas and ground disturbing activities at the Phase IX site.

Plaintiff Kaniloa Kamaunu, a lineal descendant of the area, pointed to the sand hills as themselves sacred, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Where does the man end and the sand begin? The dead from the battle of Kakanilua became part of this place, their ‘ano melded with the sandhills and they should not be disturbed.”


Kamaunu and others who joined in filing the lawsuit are represented by Maui attorney Lance D. Collins.

*Video from May 3, 2017 demonstration in Wailuku. 

Previous posts, Backstory:

May 3, 2017:
April 28, 2017:

Clare H. Apana. PC: by Wendy Osher.

Kaniloa Kamaunu. PC: by Wendy Osher.

PC: Iwi Protectors

Maui Sand Dunes. PC: Iwi Protectors


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