Maui News

Land Board approves purchase of Māʻalaea Mauka watershed lands

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The Board of Land and Natural Resources takes up a proposal today for the state to purchase 257 acres of Māʻalaea Mauka lands. The board unanimously approved the purchase for $8.33 million. PC: YouTube screen grab

The Board of Land and Natural Resources unanimously approved today a proposal for the state to purchase nearly 257 acres at Pōhākea, also known as Māʻalaea Mauka, for $8.22 million.

The property will be put into forest reserve to the watershed above Māʻalaea Bay and prevent massive erosion from damaging nearshore waters in South and West Maui. The board went a step further with an amendment to make clear the property will never be transferred to another owner or the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture as a so-called Act 90 land transfer.

The primary source of funding will be Maui County, which set aside $6.2 million for the purchase in May 2022. The State of Hawaiʻi also has committed $1 million from the Legacy Land Conservation Program of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. The landowner is providing a “land donation” of $1,020,000.


According to a staff report from the DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the vacant and agriculturally zoned property would be purchased from the nonprofit Trust for Public Land. The trust has agreed to purchase the property from current owners Hope Builders Inc. and WMC Holdings LLC and then convey it to the state.

Maui County was close to buying the land in May 2022 for $6.2 million, but a few days later it was snapped up by developer Peter Martin of West Maui Land Co. who bought all 257 acres for an undisclosed price.

As requirements prior to the purchase, the state has determined there are no problems with land title and an independent appraisal put the fair market value of the property at $8.22 million.


The property includes easements for three water wells and a 750,000-gallon water tank on adjacent properties. The water will be needed for habitat restoration, construction of green/shaded fire breaks and reforestation to prevent erosion.

The Māʻalaea Mauka land is adjacent to 3,414 acres of state-owned conservation lands that are prone to cycles of wildfires and erosion. Land management practices will be aimed at breaking that cycle and protect public safety and massive rain runoff that smothers nearshore reefs with muddy silt.

State forestry plans include setting aside the property and mauka state lands to forest reserve and incorporation into the Mauna Kahalawai Watershed Partnership. The historic Lahaina Pali Trail will continue to be open for public recreational use.

A map included in a staff report to the Board of Land and Natural Resources shows the location of Pōhākea Watershed Lands, also known as Māʻalaea Mauka. Screen grab from DLNR report
Brian Perry
Brian Perry worked as a staff writer and editor at The Maui News from 1990 to 2018. Before that, he was a reporter at the Pacific Daily News in Agana, Guam. From 2019 to 2022, he was director of communications in the Office of the Mayor.
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