Members of the Hawaii House Finance Committee, chaired by Chairman Kyle T. Yamashita, toured Maui to see several projects and programs supported by the state legislature and tour state properties in Lahaina and around the island.
Committee members met with stakeholders to learn about community needs and identify priorities for the next legislative session.
According to the press release, the committee will continue to conduct site visits in the province to understand the status of ongoing projects and assess the needs of neighboring island communities.
Here are some highlights from the Oct. 25-27 Maui site tours:
Soil and Water Conservation – Upper Maui
The committee visited a fire-damaged farm in Kula to discuss the management of the Soil and Water Conservation District, particularly the risk of wildfires.
Extreme weather, drought, invasive species and land management contribute to the region’s fire vulnerability, said Michael Constantinides, assistant director for technology at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Officials discussed plans to airdrop seeds to prevent soil erosion.
It is expected that the discussion on the administration of the Soil and Water Conservation District will continue in the upcoming legislative session.
Princess Nahiinana Primary School
Following the August 8 Lahaina wildfires, Princess Nahiina’ana Elementary School was converted to a hybrid campus, requiring quick adjustments to the new conditions. On Oct. 18, about 300 students from Princess Nāhi’ena’ena returned to campus with more than 200 students from King Kamehameha III Elementary, which was destroyed by fire. King Kamehameha’s students follow Princess Nahi’ina’a until the West Maui Interim School is completed in Pulelehua.
The committee met the principals of both the campuses and shared insights about the current situation and identified the pressing needs of the students.
School representatives learned more about the school’s Hawaiian Language Immersion Program, or Kaipuni School, one of 22 non-charter immersion programs operated by the Department of Education since 1987. .
Halau Kealaokamaile Cultural Resource Center
Kumu Hula Keali’i Reichel was established by Halau Ke’alaokama’ile to perpetuate Hawaiian tradition, culture and heritage through art, faith, dance, language and agriculture.
For years, he has had a vision of creating a unique space where students can participate in hula practice and performance while being immersed in Native Hawaiian culture and actively involved in community outreach.
In the year In 2022, Halau Ke’alaokama’ile received $881,600 in grant-in-aid funding allocated by the Hawaii State Legislature. With the support of private donations and federal and state grants, Halau embarked on an exciting journey to build their cultural center on a 4-acre parcel on Pieholo Street in Makawao. The center is currently under construction.
Waianapanapa State Park
The committee went to Waianapanapa State Park. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, this popular park at the end of the famous Hana Highway in East Maui saw overcrowding and excess commercial tourism. This has had a significant impact on the surrounding rural community and affected the overall visitor experience.
To address these issues, a new reservation system will be implemented in 2021. During the site visit, park officials outlined ongoing goals between the sustainable management of the park and maintaining an improved experience while respecting the needs of the local community. .
Lahaina wildfire danger zone
The committee conducted site visits to assess recovery efforts in the wake of the Lahaina Fire. Their first trip was to the site of King Kamehameha III Elementary School to assess the damage and gain insight into ongoing recovery efforts. Representatives received an update that cultural consultants are actively involved with archaeologists and forensics to identify and preserve culturally significant aspects of this historic property.
In Lahaina Harbor, members received an update from the US Coast Guard on the recovery process, which includes search and rescue operations, FEMA operations and debris removal. Efforts are being made to work closely with ship owners on access, maintenance and environmental and historical heritage protection. The schedule for these events is ongoing.
Council representatives toured the Front Street Apartments, a 142-unit Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation project built in 2001. During the 2024 legislative session, there will be expected discussions about the need for affordable housing for residents, wildfires.
Discussions at Mala Wharf focused on potential legislation for the next session, with an emphasis on protecting the concerns of local residents while raising trade issues. The Department of Boating and Marine Recreation provided an update on the status of funds and projects received from the State Legislature in previous years, including bathroom upgrades, lighting upgrades and facility flooring.
Finally, improvements to the West Maui Interim School were made during a briefing by the US Army Corps of Engineers. A transition campus is planned to be located at Pulelehua near Kapalua Airport.