Wailua tour operator
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.
BACK TO TOP