Sunday, March 2, 2008

Musings: All Maxed Out

Went up to Hanalei early for a meeting this morning, and going North Shore always gets me thinking about tourism and gentrification and other such things that don’t leave me with a very happy feeling.

Today was no exception, especially since I was meeting with Hawaiians who are struggling to ensure that they can continue to live in Ha`ena amid the influx of tourism and vacation rentals.

Before I headed north, Koko and I took our usual walk and ran into my neighbor, Andy, whom I hadn’t seen in a while. We got to talking about the big house — if you can call a 32,000-square-foot structure a house – that a guy who made a fortune in the cleaning business wants to build near the river mouth at Kahili (Rock Quarry).

It’s sparked a contested case hearing before the planning commission, which last week wisely decided to make a site visit before taking action. It really helps to actually see a place before you let something like that go through.

This is yet another example of someone who comes here with a pile of money and thinks that gives them the right to do whatever they please. You know, private property rights. But what about the rest of us? Don’t we have any rights to a few beaches where we can go and enjoy nature without a palace in the landscape, all lit up at night and ruining the ambience?

It’s a question that’s rallied the Kilauea Neighborhood Assn., which is fighting the project, and one I’ve often pondered. Why should everything be set up to benefit one individual at the expense of the greater community and the environment?

Along those same lines, last week I was talking to attorney Harold Bronstein, He’s representing Cathy Ham Young in her lawsuit against actor Piece Brosnan and his wife, who are hogging so much water for their landscape ponds in Wainiha that the Ham Youngs, who have lived there for untold generations, don’t have enough fresh, cold water to properly farm taro.

Guess the suit prompted a story in one of the tabloids, with the headline “Life’s a Ditch,” and a photo that showed an aerial view of Brosnan’s Wainiha estate.

Apparently the Brosnans and now the guy who wants to build the mansion at Kahili don’t really give a rip about their neighbors. It’s all about them. And that’s the kind of attitude that is slowly destroying the cooperative social fabric that is at the heart of Hawaiian culture, the local lifestyle and rural communities in general.

Yet the state and county continue on with business as usual, drumming up an ever growing number of tourists and catering to the whims of the idle rich who come here and, as a friend observed, “take up space, use up resources and move on.”

It’s not like the state doesn’t know how people feel about this topic, according to an article on a survey conducted by the Hawaii Tourism Authority that ran in yesterday’s Advertiser.

Kauai came in solidly with a “nuff already” attitude. Some 65 percent of Kauai’s residents believe the state is run more for tourists than locals, 79 percent don’t want any more hotels and just 31 percent believe the island needs more tourism jobs.

It seems that "all maxed out" message is getting press elsewhere, too. Katy Rose sent me an email that contained an excerpt from a one paragraph blurb about Kauai that appeared in the travel section of The Week magazine:

"Yet locals are worried that tourism has brought too much change to the island, and that the rise of mega-resorts and increased ferry traffic will dampen its 'laid-back, rural vibe.'"

Katy commented: “So the discontent has been noted! I suppose that's good…”

Still, as Andy observed when we discussed the Advertiser article on our walk, the state and others may have noted the discontent, but that doesn’t mean they’re planning to stop the unrelenting push for more tourism or deal with its impacts.

Instead, as Andy astutely noted, the article quotes HTA head Rex Johnson as saying the agency needs to keep trying to improve its reputation in the community.

You know, the old snow job approach. And it apparently seems to be working. The most telling comment came at the end of the article:

Johnson noted that residents were more likely to blame developers, speculators and government for problems.

I recognize the role that tourism plays in Hawaii's economy, and I’m not saying we have to totally tank the industry. But can't we set some limits? Because tourism feeds speculation and and development. There's no pretending they aren't all related.

Finally, I got this response from Maui resident Dick Mayer when I asked for a copy of the briefs filed in the appeal of the judge’s decision to let the Superferry run without an EIS:

Attorney Isaac Hall filed merely a NOTICE of an Appeal. The full actual briefs will be filed at a future date when it is time to argue them in court (perhaps even after the HSF has gone away!!)

His NOTICE claimed that the Special Session Act 2 was unconstitutional, but it did not go into details at this time.


Mahalo for clarifying, Dick.

1 comment:

irk said...

"life's a ditch" must be in a totally offline tabloid. best link i found is not even from the garden, but the big:
http://www.bigislandweekly.com/articles/2008/01/23/read/news/news06.txt