Protection urged for heiau


POSTED: Saturday, June 20, 2009

The city halted construction at a heiau in Hawaii Kai on June 12, after receiving complaints from residents.

; Ann Marie Kirk and Chris Cramer of Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, an organization dedicated to preserving the district, discovered the heiau's desecration on June 9.

According to Kirk, the lower platform of Hawea heiau was covered with debris and the stone platform was damaged by a bulldozer. There were petroglyphs on large boulders which could not be found and the buffer to the wetland, which houses the endangered alae ula, or Hawaiian moorhen, was also bulldozed over.

“;I just feel a deep sense of sadness, but also a belief that Hawea will be saved because it's our responsibility to our kupuna to make sure that they don't get erased from the land,”; said Kirk.

Hawea heiau is one of the only remnants of a system of more than 15 heiaus that surrounded Maunalua Bay and is still used by native Hawaiians for religious ceremonies, said Cramer, the East Honolulu historian.

“;I fear a large circle of upright stones leading from the wetland to the well may be destroyed next, as they are inches from what has been cleared already,”; said Cramer.

The heiau is located on the mauka side of the Oahu Club on Hawaii Kai Drive and sits on property owned by the nonprofit Hawaii Intergenerational Community Development. As of 2007, 21st Century Homes, HICD's for-profit company, planned to build a $200 million luxury condominium, but construction has been delayed several times after meetings with community members about the heiau and getting approval for a height variance.

The Historic Preservation Division is assessing whether the developer followed the draft of a preservation plan for the area.

Several calls to the developer were not returned, but according to the Department of Planning and Permitting, the company did not have a permit for the construction site.

According to the state Historic Preservation Department, the archaeologist could not find Hawea heiau during an inspection last year and the archaeologist may not have agreed that the area was classified as a heiau.

“;We know there's supposed to be a heiau in the vicinity and there have been several efforts to find the precise location of that heiau but when our archaeologist went out on the site, they didn't find it,”; said Pua Aiu, the division administrator. “;I'm shocked that she said that,”; said Kirk, responding to Aiu's comments. “;It has been recorded in previous archaeological studies and even visited by three archaeologists and a cultural expert from the division who called Hawea a significant site. They really don't know what they're doing,”; said Kirk, who noted that only a tiny portion of the heiau was covered under the current plan.

“;People throughout Oahu and the other islands are extremely upset at what happened. We're looking at a structure that's 800 years old,”; said Kirk. “;It's a deep lack of respect for Hawaiian culture, but we're not going to let it continue; it's going to stop.”;

Livable Hawaii Kai Hui members have e-mailed the city, state departments, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and several politicians to stop the construction.

“;What we're doing now is mobilizing people to stop what's going on at Hawea and to make sure that the preservation of Hawea is looked at by cultural experts and archaeologists to make sure that what's left will be preserved and what's destroyed will be rebuilt,”; said Kirk. “;Hawea can still be saved.”;