Friday, August 13, 2004

Wailua tour operator
is evicted from river

The ruling gives a monopoly
on tours to Freckles Smith


Sunday, August 15, 2004

Sonny Waialeale, who owns Waialeale Boat Tours along Kauai's Wailua River, did not use the argument that the state had no jurisdiction over Polynesians until March, when the state terminated his lease. A page A3 article in Friday's early edition incorrectly said he used the argument before the lease was terminated.

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin strives to make its news report fair and accurate. If you have a question or comment about news coverage, call Editor Frank Bridgewater at 529-4791 or email him at

LIHUE >> A Circuit Court judge ordered the eviction of Waialeale Boat Tours from the Wailua River yesterday because the company has not paid rent for the use of a state-owned marina and Fern Grotto State Park since November 2000.

Judge George Masuoka refused to hear arguments from the boat company's president, Sonny Waialeale, who claimed that as a Polynesian, his right to use the river predates state laws.

Masuoka said the legal dispute is not between Waialeale as an individual and the state. The lease, Masuoka ruled, was between a corporation and the state.

"The state is entitled to judgment against Waialeale Boat Tours Inc., and the court is granting judgment," Masuoka said. The hearing lasted about five minutes.

Waialeale, who represented himself in court, told the judge he would appeal the decision. "You're going against a Polynesian right," he said.

A large group of Hawaiian sovereignty activists from Kauai attended the hearing but was more subdued than at an earlier hearing.

Bill Wynhoff, the deputy state attorney general handling the case, showed up with four armed Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement officers as a bodyguard. They rushed him out to a waiting state car after the hearing, even though none of the Hawaiian activists even attempted to speak to him.

Masuoka still must rule on exactly how much money Waialeale owes the state in back rent and whether the state can seize any of Waialeale's property, including his five large passenger barges, to collect.

As of April, Waialeale owed the state $108,000. He did use the argument that the state had no jurisdiction over Polynesians until March, when the state Land Board terminated the lease.

The Waialeale family has been operating tours on the Wailua River since 1968. The most recent lease was issued to the company in 1992 and scheduled to expire in 2008. The lease payment was $3,500 a month or a percentage of gross income.

The departure of Waialeale as a Wailua River tour company gives a monopoly to Freckles Smith, whose family pioneered tours to Fern Grotto State Park in the early 1950s.

The state has forbidden rental kayaks from being taken to Fern Grotto.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Kauai County are spending $440,000 to refurbish Fern Grotto.

Fern Grotto is a naturally created cavern. A steady flow of water from a plantation-created reservoir above it resulted in the growth of ferns on the ceiling of the cave. The park has been damaged by hurricanes, and the closing of the plantations has ended the water supply that created the phenomenon.

Hawaii Dept. of Land & Natural Resources


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