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Coalition Petitions A&B for New Uses of Former Sugar Cane Lands

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Alexander & Baldwin photo of HC&S Puʻunēnē mill and surrounding sugar fields. Courtesy file image.

A coalition on Maui has launched a “15% for the Future” campaign, which is petitioning Alexander & Baldwin to donate or allow the sale of former sugar cane lands in Central Maui to support affordable housing and agriculture.

The Hukilike No Maui: Together for Maui Coalition has identified lands in Puʻunēnē and Hāliʻimaile that it wants in the hands of local entities to establish small scale agriculture and affordable housing for Maui residents.  The lands include parcels at Puʻunēnē for a sustainable community; and Hāliʻimaile for agriculture and affordable housing.

The Hukilike Coalition is also asking A&B to create permanent conservation easements or donate particular areas that have cultural and environmental significance, and make arrangements for those lands to be cared for by local cultural practitioners.

Areas that the coalition identified as prospects for conservation include: the Waiʻale Reservoir, Waiʻale Sand Dunes, Māʻalaea Bay Coastline, Keālia Pond, Baldwin Beach Park and Hoʻokipa Beach Park.

According to the coalition’s website, the group was started by long-time Maui advocates for affordable housing, agriculture, and the environment, and is comprised of organizations and individuals “who recognize that our goals for agriculture, affordable housing, and conservation on Maui are intricately connected, and to achieve them all we must work together.”

Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. Director, Corporate Communications, Darren Pai responded to Maui Now’s request for comment saying:

Alexander & Baldwin respects the right of any individual or organization to express their opinions and is always willing to listen. We welcome the opportunity to hear more about the Hukilike Coalition’s plans. We have met with them on Maui in the past and we share many of their beliefs about the benefits and importance of diversified agriculture, affordable housing and open space. A&B is proud to have demonstrated leadership on these issues throughout our long history on Maui, and we continue to do so today.

We have provided housing for Maui’s working families since 1950, most recently through our Kamalani project and are actively working with Catholic Charities on another affordable housing project in Kahului.

We also have committed to conserving thousands of acres of land on Maui, having conveyed permanent conservation easements for approximately 3700 acres in East Maui to The Nature Conservancy and for the 700-acre Kealia Pond Refuge to the US Fish & Wildlife service. A&B is a founding member of the East Maui Watershed Partnership, Hawaii’s first public-private partnership to preserve an important watershed on Maui, which served as a model for the subsequent establishment of nine other watershed partnerships across the state.

A&B has kept Central Maui in agriculture for nearly 150 years, and we have made significant progress in our diversified agriculture initiatives over the past year, transitioning about 4,500 acres to active farming and ranching, and we are in active negotiations for another 15,000 acres of agricultural leases. To meet the needs of the smaller farmers, we are finalizing discussions with the County of Maui to provide more than 800 acres for an expansion of the Kula Agricultural Park.

We are open to learning about any organization’s plans to provide more housing and agriculture on Maui, and will do what we can to support any viable plan, as we are able.

“The end of commercial sugarcane cultivation on thousands of acres in Central Maui that are held by Alexander & Baldwin poses challenges but is also tremendous opportunity to address many of the long-standing problems facing the people of Maui,” the coalition stated in a press release.  “The island’s population continues to grow as tourism reaches new levels, all the while Maui residents are priced out of their homes, the majority of the food is imported, and unique environments and culturally sensitive lands are destroyed or access is denied.”

“In 2017, the Hukilike Coalition did an affordable housing survey where we asked residents to tell us about their problems with housing on Maui. The responses were sobering: so many people who have lived here for generations are not seeing a future on this island because they can’t afford to buy or rent housing in this market,” said Rob Weltman, chairperson of the Sierra Club Maui Group and member of the Hukilike No Maui Coalition. “It’s clear the island’s environmental resources are under stress, but so are Maui’s people. We need to build far more affordable housing and expand our local food production.”

“For too long, there has been too much animosity between the groups about how to develop this island. Now we’re coming together to listen to each other’s concerns and make a decision together,” said Stan Franco, FACE Maui Housing Co-Chair and member of the coalition. “No single person or organization has answers to all the challenges. But working collectively with the community, big, innovative solutions can be found.”

“All of Maui’s people could benefit if we adopt a sustainable approach to the use of the Central Maui lands. We have an unique opportunity right now to address the needs of Maui’s residents. If we make those changes today, Maui’s future will be so much brighter for ourselves and our future generations,” said Lehua Simon, lifelong Pukalani resident and member of the Hukilike No Maui Coalition.

Maui residents and allies will deliver the petition at A&B’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. A “15% for the Future” rally will be held on Maui that same day at noon, outside A&B’s Kahului office at 11 S. Puʻunēnē Avenue.

*Maui Now’s Wendy Osher contributed to this report.