The primary reason I’m passionately advocating for the Anahola Renewable Energy Project (spearheaded by Green Energy Team, plus the removal of Albizia trees) is that Green Energy will clear 356 acres in the first five years and return it to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands for homesteading. DHHL will then be able to award 103, 2-acre subsistence agricultural leases and 14, 10-acre pastoral leases as called for by the community in the Anahola Regional Plan (updated June 2010).
Green Energy will also clear and return to DHHL the remaining 819 acres in an additional 15 years. DHHL will then be able to award many more homestead leases.
Note: DHHL has only awarded 47 agricultural leases: once in Anahola in 1984 and one pastoral lease at Puu Opae (Westside), also 30 years ago.
Native Hawaiian beneficiaries
There are more than 4,000 families on the DHHL Kauai wait lists (2,150 for agricultural, 298 for pastoral and 1,559 for residential). Perhaps these numbers represent you, someone in your family or someone you know. My number on the ag wait list is 124!
Failure of the past
I’ve been advocating for all our families on the waitlists for more than 10 years now as a Kauai representative for Hui Kakoo Aina Hoopulapula. Like DHHL, our focus and energy has been solely on “residential” leases. In doing so, we have completely failed at creating any opportunities for agricultural or pastoral lease awards to beneficiaries!
Promise of the future
But now, we have a very real chance to change all that with this one-of-a-kind partnership with a kamaaina company that understands how important the aina is to us, as well as the frustrations of the many of us who’ve been waiting for so many years.
Yes, of course, we would love for a project partner to clear the lands expecting nothing in return. But, for the past few decades, the need has existed and no one has come forward. Instead, the Albizia trees have been allowed to infest.
We have a willing partner in Green Energy that is asking only for the minimal amount of acres and time to make back the $6 million they’re investing to remove the Albizia infestation, clear the lands and upgrade the roads to agricultural standards.
So, in essence, our land itself is paying for its clearing. Yes, we are paying, too, in having to wait. But, the wait is now only five years instead of 30 years, or worse, indefinitely!
Another important reason for supporting this project is to open up the lands not only to future homesteading, but, also to current use by the entire Anahola Homestead community.
Right now, the roads are in disrepair and there are locked gates everywhere.
Only a privileged few ranchers with revocable permits have keys to those gates. This project, which includes a community picnic area near the furthest mauka part of the lands, obligates Green Energy to work with DHHL and the HHC to provide access to all Anahola homesteaders.
This project won’t only open the actual gates to our mauka lands, it will also open the metaphorical gates, break down the walls and replace the “no can” and defeatist attitudes that have been holding back the Native Hawaiian genius and intelligence that, given this opportunity, can surely spring forth again from Anahola homesteaders and other waitlist hopeful farmers and ranchers.
It will spring forth cooperatives for farming, ranching, water, sustainability and more by those who see actual land awards in the very near future.
And, also by those like me who understand the critical importance of holding DHHL accountable from day one to ensure that when the lands are made ready in five years; that our entire Hawaiian Homelands Trust; our department staff, our commissioners and our native Hawaiian beneficiaries on the wait list are all also ready!
It’s time now for Native Hawaiians and our supporters to seize this moment, to make the investment of leveraging our lands and to put the interest of the many before the interest of a few by calling on the state’s Hawaiian Homes Commission to partner with Green Energy to deliver on our trust’s primary obligation of “getting our Hawaiian people off the wait lists and onto our lands,” or more simply put “getting Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands.”
• KipuKai Kualii is the president of the Homestead Community Development Corporation and board member of Hui Kakoo Aina Hoopulapula.