WHAT OF THE BONES AT WAIALE?
Alexander & Baldwin, a landowner in Hawaii and the Mainland of some name, has a rather substantial project moving through the complex state and local approval process. It involves the proposed construction of 2,550 residential units, a shopping center and a commercial/industrial area on 545 acres of Central Maui’s Waiale area. Such a project would add about 6,670 new residents to that region.
It is, to put it mildly, a controversial plan. Not because of A&B’s insistence that the project will provide much-needed affordable housing (though that claim isn’t without some skepticism), but because Waiale was once a Hawaiian burial site.
“Fifty acres of disturbed (sandmined) dunes on the WAIALE site already have almost 90 known sets of kupuna iwi [bones],” states a talking points memo emailed out on Feb. 12 by Sierra Club Maui’s Lucienne de Naie. “Most of these will be preserved in place in one dune. Other burials are being removed for roads. MANY MORE BURIALS ARE LIKELY TO BE UNCOVERED IF MORE DUNES ARE BULLDOZED, RATHER THAN PROTECTED.”
The concern of Waiale burials comes as the state Land Use Commission (LUC) takes up the project this week, meeting at 10am on Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Makena Resort. There is no more highly charged issue in Hawaii land use than the discovery of iwi. And the talking points memo doesn’t hold back, even going so far as to refer to the controversial Maui Lani development, which ground up more than a few bones.
“We need to learn from our mistakes at Maui Lani, and make things pono with our lands and our ancestors who watch over them,” states the talking points memo. “Give Maui people jobs building homes[,] not digging up our Kupuna’s graves.”
For its part, A&B made only vague mention of the existence of burials in its project petition to the LUC.
“Burials have been identified within this area and mitigation measures, including a plan for long term preservation are being formulated in consultation with the State Deparment of Land and Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division (“SHPD”) and the Maui/Lanai Islands Burial Council,” stated A&B in its LUC petition. “Several cultural preserves are planned within the Project to safeguard these burial sites.”
For people like de Naie, though, such promises don’t go far enough. The talking points memo, which was written to get people to ask questions of the LUC, calls for the panel to do a study that would “list Waiale Burial dunes on the state and national Historic Register, as it deserves,” as well as a “Traditional Cultural Property Study.” The absence of such studies, the memo states, means the project “ is NOT respectful to a place with traditional cultural value” and “is NOT sound planning.”
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MAUI SEA SHEPHERD ACTIVIST KNOCKED ABOUT BY WHALER
Went whale watching this weekend, which I must say was very nice. It’s always nice to be out on the water (except during a hurricane, I guess) while gentle giants like Humpbacks swim and breach barely a hundred yards away. So it was fortuitous that I got back to work Monday morning and found an email from the anti-whaling organization Sea Shepherd waiting in my inbox.
“Beck Straussner (42) of the United States was knocked off his jet ski by the Yushin Maru No. 2 in a confrontation between whalers and whale defenders in the waters off the coast of Antarctica,” stated the Feb. 11 email. “In an effort to slow down the tailing harpoon vessel, the Steve Irwin deployed three inflatable boats and a jet ski in an attempt to force the Yushin Maru No. 2 to fall behind to allow the Steve Irwin to escape. Beck was knocked off his jet ski into subzero Antarctic waters when he was struck in the chest by one of the water cannons on the harpoon vessel. The Yushin Maru No. 2 did not stop to offer assistance. Mr. Straussner was able to swim to his jet ski and was able to get underway again. He returned to the Steve Irwin some nine miles away. In response to the question of how he felt about the incident, Beck laughed and said one word–‘cold.’”
Say what you will about Sea Shepherd–their methods of stopping the despicable practice of whaling by harassing Japanese whalers with speedboats and propeller-fouling cables has been labeled “piracy” for not entirely unjust reasons–but they are masters at publicity. At one end of the marketing spectrum, they do Whale Wars on Animal Planet, one of the most compelling television programs ever. Then, at the other end, you have this email, which I’m guessing was sent to me solely because Straussner–the crewmember knocked in the water in the above incident–hails from Maui.
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UH PROFESSOR’S UNION ENDORSES CASE
A new Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now poll of likely Democratic voters puts Congressmember Mazie Hirono (D-2nd District) 20 points above rival Ed Case, and also 20 points up on likely Republican candidate Linda Lingle. That would seem to tie it up for Hirono, except for two small items.
First, the poll also shows Case beating Lingle by 20 points in a November match-up. And second, Case just secured a fairly important endorsement from the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, a union representing 4,000 UH faculty members.
“We believe Ed Case showed a seasoned perspective of the role of public higher education, and presented comprehensive solutions to challenges facing faculty that clearly showed his ability to draw connections,” said Adrienne Valdez, UHPA board president, in a Feb. 11 press release. “We believe he will earnestly reach out to faculty to explore possible solutions to issues if he is elected to the U.S. Senate.”
It’s good news for Case, but as blogger Ian Lind (ilind.net) noted this week, it’s also unusual. “Case is a much more conservative Democrat than Hirono and at odds with the party mainstream,” Lind wrote. “I question whether his conservative views will really be able to draw support from the majority of UH faculty.”
There’s still a lot of time before the election, but it’s still shocking to see Lingle trailing so far behind whichever person wins the Democratic nomination.