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Sunday, July 31, 2005
A key part of the master plan hinges on development approval of 500 acres of the ranch's 6,000 acres at La'au in southwest Molokai for a luxury 200-lot subdivision.
The ranch, owned by the Singapore-based BIL International Ltd., wants to use revenues from La'au to help finance a $35 million renovation of the Kaluakoi resort, including its 144-room hotel that closed in 2000.
Molokai Ranch President Peter Nicholas said he feels the ranch is making progress in building a consensus that supports the master plan.
"I'm fantastically pleased about the willingness of everybody to sit down," Nicholas said. "We've been looking for solutions. ... That's the beauty of this process."
Nicholas said the offer of 26,200 acres of land evolved out of lengthy discussions with residents, after the ranch asked the community to help.
Supporters say what's at stake is the development of a healthier economy on the Friendly Isle, where unemployment was about 9.8 percent in June and where the population has grown from about 6,100 to about 7,000 in the last 25 years.
Molokai residents experienced major layoffs in 1988 with the closing of Del Monte's pineapple plantation and, a few years ago, the shutdown of the Kaluakoi Hotel and Pau Hana Inn.
Molokai Enterprise Community interim Executive Director Stacy Helm Crivello said she supports the master plan because it was based on a process that involved the community. "We've had over 100 meetings," she said.
Crivello said the ranch is also willing to allow the trust to hold easements over an additional 24,950 acres dedicated to agriculture and rural reserve.
Crivello said the master plan will also enable the ranch to generate enough real estate income to redevelop and reopen the Kaluakoi resort.
"The intent is to build an economic base on people living here," she said. Crivello said the master plan will help to reverse the outflow of Molokai's youth, who have difficulty finding work on the Friendly Isle.
"They go. They get their education, and they don't come home," she said.
Not all residents on the land use committee or in the community support the master plan.
Walter Ritte Jr., a native Hawaiian and member of the committee, said he opposes the master plan because it calls for developing houses in La'au, where people fish and gather food from the sea to supplement their families' subsistence living.
"The area is much too precious to use as a housing area. ... La'au is where all our biodiversity is alive and working," Ritte said. "It allows us to keep our culture alive. It allows us to be Hawaiians. It's a big thing to allow us to give it up. That's our icebox feeding us."
Ritte said the lands offered by the ranch are "undevelopable," because there's no water for them. "I don't see any future for those lands unless a miracle happens and you can produce water," he said.
Glenn Teves, a part-time farmer, said he's worried that approving the master plan will take away water from future native Hawaiian homesteaders, including those planning to settle on more than 100 new lots at Kalamaula and additional lots in Hoolehua.
He said other homesteaders are also worried about water rights.
Teves, who works as a University of Hawaii agricultural extension agent, said two-thirds of the water from the Kualapuu reservoir is supposed to go to benefit native Hawaiian farmers and the remainder for other users.
Nicholas said under its plan, the ranch has offered for use up to 1 million gallons of water a day from a Kualapuu well to Hawaiian homesteaders.
Crivello said she believes the ranch and the community can work together to resolve the demand for water.
She said that under Nicholas' direction, the ranch has also removed its application to build a 14-inch water pipeline across Hawaiian Homes lands -- a move that was opposed by some native Hawaiians.
She said the master plan calls for the ranch to establish policies that permit subsistence gathering of food and native cultural practices to continue at La'au and the hiring of resource managers to maintain the subsistence lifestyle.
"Our community has been an ache of division. We've had division for a long time," she said. "I guess the intent is to hopefully unify the community."