Maui News

Council supports closures of Holomua Road for public safety in Pāʻia

Listen to this Article
5 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Plastic tarps cover most of an abandoned vehicle Wednesday afternoon on Holomua Road in Pāʻia. A bill pending second and final reading before the Maui County Council would close the upper portion of the road and prohibit parking and vehicle traffic to the makai section of the road from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. PC: Brian Perry (5.22.24)

Maui County members voted 9-0 on Tuesday to approve a bill on first reading to close the mauka portion of Holomua Road above the entrance to old Maui High School to address concerns about brush fires and other public safety issues.

Introduced by Makawao-Haʻikū-Pāʻia Council Member Nohelani Uʻu-Hodgins, Bill 95 would prohibit parking and vehicle access to the lower portion of the road from Hāna Highway to the old Maui High entrance from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily. The measure advances to second and final reading on June 7.

Uʻu-Hodgins asked fellow council members to act quickly Tuesday by waiving committee referral of the bill and passing it on first reading. Brush fire season is coming soon in the hot, dry summer months, and there’s a potential risk of brush fires spreading to Pāʻia, another former sugar plantation town with old wooden buildings and narrow streets.

Also, in just the first few months of this year, the Department of Fire and Public Safety reported responding to several dozen emergency calls in the area known for encampments of people in the tucked away area mauka of Kūʻau and Hoʻokipa Beach Park.

While Uʻu-Hodgins urged fast action, Lānaʻi Council Member Gabe Johnson said he wanted a more in-depth discussion of the matter in committee. He suggested referral to East Maui Council Member Shane Sinenci’s Water Authority, Social Services and Parks Committee.


Johnson asked where the people living in the area would go? “Are we just gonna say, ‘Anywhere but here?’ We know that doesn’t work.”

Uʻu-Hodgins welcomed discussion in committee, but suggested Johnson doesn’t have a full understanding of the public safety risks involved. The current number of people living in the vicinity of Holomua Road is from one to two dozen, she said, and “the activity that’s happening there can jeopardize Pāʻia town in its entirety.”

There have been ongoing efforts by the Police and Fire departments and the Office of the Mayor’s homeless coordinator to work with people staying there and “hopefully get them housed someplace else,” she said.

Uʻu-Hodgins said she’s empathetic to their struggles. But their needs cannot take precedence, and “allow anything to basically take out an entire town,” she said. “We’re not gonna just move them and push them out. We understand that there needs to be help.”

The bill would permanently close the upper gravel section of the road and use that for emergency purposes only, she said. On the bottom portion of the road, there’s a gate that will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.


“I’m afraid we could have a mini Lahaina, and I would hate to have all of this all over again and not learn our lesson the first time,” Uʻu-Hodgins said.

“Unless it’s threatening your back yard, I don’t know that you realize how serious this actually is,” she told Johnson.

Johnson said he understands Uʻu-Hodgins’ concerns. He asked if she reached out to nonprofits for help.

She said work with social services is ongoing with Maui County Homeless Coordinator Naomi Crozier taking a lead in that effort. However, “your concern goes beyond Honolua Road,” and involves Maui’s housing shortage and the community overall, she told Johnson. “And that is a conversation that will need to be addressed by everybody.”

Sinenci said his committee could discuss the issue on June 4, although an agenda had not been posted as of this morning.


South Maui Council Member Tom Cook agreed that the encampments along Holomua Road are a serious matter of public safety.

“People are afraid to go up there,” he said. “It’s lawlessness, drug dealing, chop shops for stolen cars; burning stolen cars. So the challenge we have is not just the homeless population that’s innocent, but also a remote area without water that basically has been a hot spot for lawlessness.”

Closing upper Holomua Road and managing access to its lower portion becomes part of law enforcement, Cook said.

West Maui Council Member Tamara Paltin said lessons of the Lahaina wildfire disaster should be learned, and areas of Pāʻia, such as Skill Village, have narrow streets with difficult access for fire crews responding to blazes.

“We need to be realistic, and we need to learn from our mistakes,” she said.

Johnson said the “housing first” model has been used as a way to put unsheltered people in housing, but “how do we do a housing first model when we don’t have housing?”

Housing “sweeps,” meaning forced relocation of people away from camp sites, are illegal, he said. “We’ve been sued, and we’ve lost.” (In March, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court ruled that the state Constitution required Maui County to hold a contested case hearing before seizing and destroying the property of houseless individuals.)

And, Johnson said, during floor discussion Tuesday, that “moving folks down the road… They’ll just going to find another road… But we need to be having the nonprofits out there and getting those folks the help they need.”

During an April 2 public meeting by the Budget, Finance and Economic Development Committee, a half-dozen testifiers shared public safety concerns about Holomua Road that one testifier said was a situation that has “grown out of control.” Other testifiers reported foul, inappropriate and threatening behavior; trash and human waste; and multiple brush fires.

“It’s a miracle none of them grew to catastrophic levels that could affect downwind residents, business owners and visitors in Kūʻau and Pāʻia,” one testifier said.

  • A stop sign accented with an octopus sticker stands at the intersection of Hāna Highway and Holomua Road on Tuesday. PC: Brian Perry (5/22/24)
  • Smashed windows leave web-like cracks in an abandoned van’s windshield on Holomua Road in Pāʻia. PC: Brian Perry (5/22/24)
  • A view of Holomua Road looking northwest. PC: Brian Perry (5/22/24)
  • Mahi Pono signs warn of consequences for people who trespass or park their vehicles on private property. PC: Brian Perry (5/22/24)
  • Traffic passes the intersection of Hāna Highway and Holomua Road in Pāʻia. PC: Brian Perry (5/22/24)
  • Signs mark the intersection of Hāna Highway and Holomua Road in Pāʻia. PC: Brian Perry (5/22/24)

The Commission on Healing Solutions for Homelessness will hold its next virtual meeting at 1:30 p.m. May 30. The commission’s meeting agenda with WebEx links for virtual access can be found here.

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.
Read Full Bio

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Maui Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments