CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
A group of Poamoho Camp supporters rode on the back of a truck to a rally yesterday after sign-waving at the entrance to the camp on Kamehameha Highway.
Poamoho Camp residents
take eviction fight public
Supporters sign-wave to urge
Del Monte to preserve housing
The residents of Poamoho Camp are trying to rally public support to stave off evictions by Del Monte Fresh Produce Hawaii.
They held signs at the entrance to the camp along Kamehameha Highway yesterday protesting their evictions. They were joined by Local 142 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents Poamoho's pineapple workers, and by area lawmakers.
"The purpose is to let Del Monte know that the people won't go quietly," said Dave Mori, ILWU Oahu division director.
The camp is home to 300 Del Monte pineapple workers, retirees and their families. Some Poamoho families span three generations, as children of pineapple workers have followed in their parents' footsteps.
The company gave the residents 120-day notices to vacate their homes last month. Its lease on the camp's 90 acres and surrounding 2,110 agricultural land expires June 30. Del Monte needs to raze the camp before returning the property to land owner George Galbraith Trust.
Del Monte announced its intention not to renew the lease in January. Richard Contreras, a company official in Del Monte headquarters in Coral Gables, Florida, said the company is ceasing production of the type of pineapple grown in Poamoho and focusing its efforts on a sweeter variety grown in Kunia.
State lawmakers and the union are looking for a way for the residents to eventually own their homes or continue to rent them from another landlord. They need Del Monte's help so the residents can stay there in the meantime.
"All they have to say is that they agree to be part of the effort to preserve housing and assist in extending the lease. That's all that's really needed," Mori said.
Galbraith trustee Bank of Hawaii said it had no other plans for the property when Del Monte announced its intention not to renew the lease. The trust is scheduled to liquidate in April 2007.
Bank officials say they are willing to extend the lease on the camp's 90 acres to Del Monte or another entity like the Poamoho Camp Residents Association within the terms of the current lease.
"Del Monte would have to assign the lease to the new entity," said Leolani Abdul, bank vice president of trust real estate. "We feel that it is Del Monte's responsibility to find a solution. They have to be involved."
Abdul said Del Monte has not inquired about extending the lease or assigning it to another party.
Del Monte officials did not return calls seeking comment.
"If you live Hawaii long enough, you know there's a certain way of doing things and even in doing business, that it's not good business to do something like this," Mori said.
Rep. Michael Magaoay told the residents, "As you get older, you should be rewarded for your sweat equity."
The lawmakers are urging the residents to stick together to convince Del Monte to work with them.
Teodoro Agduyeng, 80, has lived in Poamoho the past 58 years. He and many of the other residents said they cannot afford to live anywhere else, nor would they want to.
"Everybody knows each other. It's a good place," he said, " Where I gotta go? Go under the bridge?"