Ferry rides tide of favor
Let the ship sail while its environmental impact is studied, isle residents say
STORY SUMMARY »
The Hawaii Superferry should sail now , say isle residents, according to the first independent, statewide public opinion survey on the controversial issue.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin surveyed 600 island residents, 150 on each island, and found that 64 percent think the ferry should resume service while a court-ordered environmental assessment is done.
The assessment could take up to eight months and John Garibaldi, Hawaii Superferry president, says the company cannot wait that long.
He says the company would likely leave Hawaii if it could not resume service in the near future.
The poll shows that Hawaii is almost evenly split on whether the assessment is needed.
The survey does show that there is opposition on both Maui and Kauai to the ferry running without a completed assessment. But at least half of the residents on each island say they would use the service if it resumed operations.
About the poll
The Star-Bulletin Hawaii Superferry poll was conducted Sept. 27 through Oct. 2 by SMS Research. A total of 600 telephone surveys were conducted statewide, 150 each on Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. The margin of error is 4 percentage points for the statewide poll and about 8 percentage points for the individual islands.
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TOM FINNEGAN / TFINNEGAN@STARBULLETIN.COM
A young Kauai resident sits on the breakwall at Nawiliwili Harbor on Aug. 27 during protests.
More poll data
For more detailed poll data and demographics, please click here.
Hawaii is split on whether an environmental study is needed for the Hawaii Superferry, but residents strongly support the ferry operating while such an assessment is done, according to a new poll.
The survey was done for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin by SMS Hawaii and sampled 600 people, 150 each on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai. The poll, which was conducted Sept. 27 to Oct. 2, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for the state and 8 percentage points for each island.
As a whole, the state appears ready to use the high-speed ferry, with 67.3 percent saying they would use the ship that has sat idle since late August.
Oahu and Big Island residents are most ready to climb on board, with 70.7 percent of those surveyed saying they would ride the ferry.
Even on Maui and Kauai, which have been the scenes of court challenges and protests, half of the people say they would use the ship, which can carry about 800 passengers and 250 cars
"It tracks with what I thought, that a majority of the people think this is a good idea and they want it," said Gov. Linda Lingle.
Maui and Kauai showed the strongest insistence on the need for an environmental assessment. More than two-thirds, 68.7 percent of those on Maui and 64 percent of those on Kauai, said an environmental assessment should be done.
John Garibaldi, Hawaii Superferry president, said the poll results "reflect what we have seen."
"I was happy that the poll showed either very solid support or showed that at least (the support) is more than those who had issues with it," Garibaldi said.
Asked why he thought Oahu shows the strongest support for the service, Garibaldi said Oahu residents also include those who have family on the neighbor islands.
"There are students looking forward to commuting on the weekends, people who are service providers. There are all levels of support," Garibaldi said.
When asked whether the Superferry should be allowed to run right away while the environmental assessment is being done, 68 percent of those on Oahu and 62 percent of those on the Big Island said let the ferry sail. But 52.7 percent of those on Kauai and 44 percent of those on Maui said performing the environmental study shouldn't stop the ferry.
The only age group that showed a strong resistance to the ferry running while an assessment was done was those 18 to 34. All other age groups showed strong support, with the 55-to-64 age bracket most in favor, 78.3 percent.
More than half of those in all income brackets are endorsing the ferry sailing during the study.
The strongest resistance to the ferry sailing while the study is done came from Hawaiian or part-Hawaiian residents. Even then, it was less than half, as 36.3 percent of Hawaiian residents said the ferry should not sail during the study.
Jim Dannemiller, president of SMS Research , said that if the percentages of results broken down by demographics follow the statewide percentages, it usually means that people are looking at the issue and then deciding.
"They are weighing it on the merits, rather than basing it on some social, cultural or political ideology shared within their own groups," Dannemiller said.
But, he added, the issue of the Superferry is raising intense feelings.
"There are not many questions where the result is 50-50. The people are holding relatively strong opinions," Dannemiller said.
Opponents to the ferry say the state ignored its own law by exempting the ferry from an environmental assessment. The state Supreme Court agreed, sending the case back to a Maui Circuit Court judge.
The judge, Joseph Cardoza, then stopped the Superferry from sailing into Kahului Harbor while he heard arguments on whether the ship should operate during the environmental study.
On Kauai, protesters went into the water and blocked the 350-foot ship as it sailed to Nawiliwili Harbor, shutting down the service there on its second day.
The fate of the ship appears to be in the hands of Cardoza, who could rule as soon as this week on whether the ship can serve Kahului Harbor while the environmental assessment is being done.
Garibaldi has said the company cannot afford to let the ship sit idle during a study that could take up to eight months.
The poll shows that 63.8 percent of the statewide respondents believe that the service should start before the study is completed.
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Environmental concerns are important, isle residents agree
Most residents across the state do not see environmental problems related to the Hawaii Superferry to be a big problem, according to a Star-Bulletin poll.
More poll data
For more detailed poll data and demographics, please click here.
But the percentage concerned over invasive species, whale collisions and increased traffic is greater on Kauai, where protesters have blocked the Superferry's Alakai from docking, and on Maui, where environmentalists have won a court order temporarily keeping the Superferry from using Kahului Harbor.
When asked if they considered the Superferry bringing non-native species to each island to be a problem, 18.5 percent of respondents statewide said it was a "big" problem, 29.7 percent said "small" problem, 44.6 percent said not a problem and the rest said they did not know.
Broken down by island, 41.3 percent of Kauai respondents described the issue as a big problem, along with 38.7 percent of Maui residents polled. That's compared to 13.3 percent on Oahu and 21.3 percent on the Big Island who characterized the issue as a big problem.
SMS Hawaii performed the poll for the Star-Bulletin by calling 600 people, 150 each on Oahu, Maui, Hawaii and Kauai, from Sept. 27 to Oct. 2. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for the state and 8 percentage points for each island.
The poll also asked how concerned residents were about increased traffic on each island and about the potential for the ferry colliding with whales.
Those reactions fell along similar lines.
Statewide reaction showed 20.9 percent felt potential whale collisions were a big problem, and 12.4 percent considered traffic congestion during loading and unloading to be a big problem.
Those percentages increased on Kauai and Maui with 30.7 percent of respondents on the Garden Isle and 38 percent on Maui calling whale collisions a big problem; and with 39.3 percent on Kauai and 40.7 percent on the Valley Isle considering traffic congestion to be a big problem.
Jim Dannemiller, president of SMS Research , said the contrast was not surprising to him.
"That was pretty much what I expected," Dannemiller said. "The environment, as a concern for people in the state of Hawaii, has been increasing pretty sharply.
"Maui certainly has a reputation for having a strong concern for the environment -- probably the highest in the state."
The results also came as no surprise to Jon Van Dyke, an environmental law professor at the University of Hawaii's Richardson School of Law.
"Those islands, of course, are still magical in ways that Oahu has lost," Van Dyke said. "They have pristine forests and a lot more native species and unique areas than we (on Oahu) do, so of course they are concerned about that and desperate to hang on to what's left."
House Speaker Calvin Say, who has supported the ferry, said he also was not surprised by the increased amount of environmental concern on Maui and Kauai, noting the staunch activism that has been shown on both islands since the Superferry saga began in August.
Say (D, St. Louis Heights-Wilhelmina Rise-Palolo Valley) said he is hopeful the ferry can be given a chance to operate while an environmental assessment is conducted.
"It's everyone's problem, let's try to resolve it," he said. "It shouldn't divide the community."