‘Aha Ki’ole lays groundwork for community-based tourism plan

Leaders and supporters of ‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai at Mitchell Pau'ole Center last night. Back row, from left: Bill Aila (DLNR chair), Uncle Jimmy Duvauchelle, Joseph Kalipi (Maunaloa Moku), Wayde Lee (Pala'au Moku), Palmer Naki (Mana'e Moku), Kamalu Poepoe (Po'o Alaka'i), Mervin Dudoit (Kawela Moku); Front row, from left: Byron Espaniola (Maunaloa Moku), Davianna McGregor, Colette Machado (OHA chair), Aunty Vanda Hanakahi (Po'o), Kitty Simonds (Director Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council), Aunty Ruth Manu (Mana'e/North Shore Moku), (hidden person), Opu'ulani Albino (Culture and Arts representative).

In an attempt to reach out to all of Molokai, the ‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai held an informational meeting last night at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center in its move toward gaining greater local control of cultural and natural resources.

Recent protests of a small-scale tourism operation
, American Safari Cruises, provided the impetus for the organizational efforts of the local ‘Aha. After the 145-foot yacht, the Safari Explorer, was blocked from entering Kaunakakai Harbor Nov. 26, ASC postponed two visits to Molokai in an effort to reach an agreement with the protestors. The company announced this week it will resume its regular tours of Molokai on Jan. 21, 2012.

‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai stepped forward to offer community-based mediation on this issue. While several members of ‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai participated in the protests, the local organization has gone to great lengths to separate itself from the protest group led by Walter Ritte and has emphasized its neutral position on the issue.

Molokai kupuna Aunty Vanda Hanakahi, state chair of the ‘Aha Ki’ole Advisory Committee, discussed the history of the ‘Aha system, a traditional cultural and natural resource management system that dates back to 700 A.D. Aunty Vanda said the system proved to be more successful on Molokai because, “our people had a kinship to the ‘aina; that’s what’s different between Molokai and the other islands.”

Kamalu Poepoe, second in charge of the ‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai behind Aunty Vanda, introduced the guest speakers and discussed a recent survey conducted by the ‘Aha. Besides the cruise tour question, the survey also asked respondents to voice their mana’o on the question of off-island escort boats fishing off Molokai shores during ocean sports events.

“A strong majority was not in favor,” said Poepoe, regarding the cruise yacht and tourist industry question. However, she added, enough of the ‘no’ responses asked for consideration of managed tourism. As a result, the ‘Aha will “initiate protocol” for deciding this and other issues, said Poepoe.

A series of four meetings has been scheduled
that will cover each moku, or district, represented by ‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai. ASC’s decision to return to Molokai Jan. 21 coincides with the completion of the final moku meeting in Maunaloa on Jan. 17. “Never before has Molokai had this platform to decide its future,” said Poepoe.

However, Molokai Chamber of Commerce President Robert Stephenson questioned the legitimacy of the ‘Aha to make decisions about Molokai’s future. Stephenson did not speak during the meeting, but said afterwards:

“Our (the Chamber’s) concern is that any process has to be rooted with a foundation in the law and I’m not aware that this process being courted at the moment has a foundation in the rule of law.”

The legislation to create ‘Aha Ki’ole Advisory Committee — Act 212 passed in 2007 — stated that the ‘Aha Moku council, “shall serve … in an advisory capacity on all matters regarding the management of the State’s natural resources.” The latest version of this law passed both houses in the most recent legislative session but was vetoed by Governor Neil Abercrombie because of flaws in specific language, how members are appointed and the budgetary structure and accountability of the organization.

“Never did it (Act 212) provide for any membership or districts other than the original eight appointees appointed by the governor,” added Stephenson.

Despite the questionable authority of ‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai, Bill Aila, chairman of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, expressed optimism about the potential of the group. As a guest speaker, Aila said that if the ‘Aha Ki’ole process is “inclusive” it has “the most potential for coming up with solutions” as long as it works toward building “long-term relationships.”

Guest speaker Colette Machado, chair of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, also spoke about the “hard work and time commitment” that this process will require if it is to be successful. While emphasizing the “blood, sweat and tears” that must go into this process, Machado said that the potential exists for creating a guiding document to help plot the future of tourism on Molokai.

“I cannot stress how important it is to have productive discussions,” warned Machado, if this process is to succeed.

Machado said she has received an assurance from Maui County Council chairman Danny Mateo (an invited guest on the agenda at last night’s meeting who did not attend) that any document or declaration from the ‘Aha can be included in the Molokai Community Plan. The county’s Long-Range Division is currently updating Molokai’s 2001 Community Plan for release in 2012.

If a truly collaborative process does take place, Machado said she will ask OHA for $250,000 — as long as the state offers matching funds — to help fund the ‘Aha Ki’ole statewide advisory function. With improved legislative language, “The potential is there for a tighter review process, which we don’t have,” said Machado.

To begin an initiative for gaining local control of tourism on Molokai, the ‘Aha Ki’ole invited two presenters to the meeting who offered past planning documents as guidelines for the future.

Davianna McGregor, representing the Molokai Responsible Tourism Initiative, offered a summary of the community-based visitor plan developed by the Molokai Enterprise Community (Ke ‘Aupuni Lokahi) from 2004 to 2006. After 72 interviews with residents and three focus group meetings, this initiative came up with a plan for sustainable tourism on Molokai. The plan, with clearly identified goals, processes and criteria, sets down principles for guiding Molokai tourism. Presenting an authentic visitor experience that reflects Hawaiian culture “as well as Molokai’s rural lifestyle and its people,” is the cornerstone of the plan.

Many of the Molokai Responsible Tourism Initiative ideas for controlling tourism on the local level were reiterated by Malia Akutagawa, president of the grassroots organization Sust’ainable Molokai. In presenting the highlights of the document “Molokai: Future of a Hawaiian Island,” Akutagawa emphasized the need for responsible tourism. This includes developing a clear “Molokai carrying capacity” that would set limits on the number of visitors.

This document, created in 2008 in response to the closure of Molokai Ranch, attempts to answer the question, “What does the community want?” This document pulled from numerous planning documents created over 30 years. It offers a Molokai-produced vision of its economic and social future in the areas of culture, education, agriculture, environment, subsistence, tourism and governance.

“This process involves everyone and cannot be divided along racial lines,” Akutagawa said. “What we’re trying to seek is a balance, using these documents as a starting point.”

After Akutagawa spoke, each individual moku leader addressed the room to encourage participation in the meetings.


17 Responses

  1. Good, balanced reporting.

    On a sour note, Walter Ritte pushed an Aha Kiole member because the member was a “haole.” Apparently, Mr Rotten feels that white skin people cannot be a member of the Aha Kiole Council. The club

  2. It would be nice to support all of this but Rob Stevenson’s objections are absolutely valid. There exists no legal basis for the authority of this group to decide anything for all the people of Molokai. In my regular routine on Molokai, I have never seen an Aha Ki’ole ANYTHING…survey or questionaire or anything else but the slick, full-color mailing that landed in my mailbox. I have never been contacted by a representative of Aha Ki’Ole by phone or in person or been given any opportunity to participate or cast a secret ballot which is guaranteed by a legal process to maintain its impartiality.

    I share the Governor’s objections to the 2011 legislation since there is no structure for election of representatives, for their terms in office, their specific duties and responsibilities or any kind of accountability for their actions. It appears to be a purely native Hawaiian organization populated strictly with native Hawaiian representatives who are appointed by non-transparent means. This is not a democratic process and it seems to have a pretty narrow racial basis. If Aha Ki’Ole is to represent us, they need to do their homework and establish themselves as being truly representative.

    • The Honorable Shan Tsutsui, President
      and Members of the Senate
      Twenty-Sixth State Legislature
      State Capitol, Room 409
      Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
      The Honorable Calvin Say, Speaker
      and Members of the House
      Twenty-Sixth State Legislature
      State Capitol, Room 431
      Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
      Dear President Tsutsui, Speaker Say and Members of the Legislature:
      I am transmitting herewith SB23 SDI HD2 CD1, without my approval, and with the
      statement of objections relating to the measure.
      Governor, State of Hawaii
      July 12, 2011
      Honorable Members
      Twenty-Sixth Legislature
      State of Hawaii
      Pursuant to Section 16 of Article I11 of the
      Constitution of the State of Hawaii, I am returning herewith,
      without my approval, Senate Bill No. 23, entitled “A Bill for an
      Act Relating to Native Hawaiians.”
      The purpose of this bill is to establish within the
      Department of Land and Natural Resources, the aha kiole advisory
      council, which may advise the Office of the Chairperson of the
      Board of Land and Natural Resources and the Legislature on issues
      relating to land and natural resources management through the
      ‘aha moku system. The bill requires the ‘aha kiole advisory
      council to submit an annual report to the Office of the
      Chairperson of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and the
      Legislature at least twenty days prior to the convening of each
      regular session listing all recommendations made by the ‘aha
      kiole advisory council and the resulting action taken by the
      Department of Land and Natural Resources over the course of the
      year. This bill also appropriates funds for an executive
      While the goals of this bill are laudable, several
      difficulties need to be addressed. First, the council is selfselected,
      not confirmed, has no defined term limits, offers no
      guidelines concerning the role of its members, and will select
      its own executive director. In addition, there is no recourse
      for inappropriate conduct by its members or the ability to remove
      for cause. The resulting council would essentially be a private
      entity funded by taxpayers with no governmental oversight.
      Second, the intent in creating the council is similar to the
      SENATE BILL NO. 23
      Page 2
      purpose for which the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (lrOHAll) was
      created and is a natural evolution of what a new Native Hawaiian
      governing entity would seek to accomplish. If there is
      determination to not wait until this entity is formed, then the
      council should at least be placed within OHA and funded by OHA.
      Third, the bill only provides funding for an executive director.
      This assumes that all other costs associated with this
      legislation, including travel and other expenses for the eight
      council members, will be absorbed by the Department of Land and
      Natural Resources. I support the intent of the legislation to
      provide state government the knowledge of traditional Native
      Hawaiian resource management practices and welcome the chance to
      review a bill that addresses the previously mentioned concerns.
      For the foregoing reasons, I am returning Senate Bill
      No. 23 without my approval.
      Neil Ambercombie
      Governor of Hawaii

  3. Good balanced reporting.

    On a sour note, Walter Ritte pushed me at the meeting as I was stepping forward as a member of the Aha Kiole Council. Mr Ritte told me I was not a member of the Aha Kiole Council & prevented me from taking my rightful place at the table. Apparently, Mr Ritte believes that white men could not possibly be a council member. I left the meeting very offended.

    Bob Aldrich

    • sorry to hear that. hope your feelings were hurt more than you were physically.

      i think i can speak for the editor and say your point of view is always welcome here- geev ‘um.

      btw- happy holidays to all readers of themolokainews. i would say merry christmas but know we host folks of many persuasions here. please make it a great one!

  4. i have a lot of respect for the guy in the hat.

    i also like the fact that these folks are willing to appear in photos, the same can’t be said for most phantom protestors and commentors (especially the cruelest ones over at the dispatch). why not see what these folks come up with in the way of “a plan”?

    while mr. stephenson’s points have merit, i have my own objections to the chamber as an “exclusive” organization.

    like someone says- braddahs and sistahs gotta find the balance.

  5. Thanks for the detailed reporting. . . Like Steve, I, too, question the Chamber’s interests. When people start waving “the law” as “the truth,” I am reminded of past injustices against Native Hawaiians. ‘Aha Kiole evokes Hawaiian ways of resolving conflict. It has my support and admiration. Onipa’a!

  6. […] two monk seals on Molokai under investigationFirst Alternative Energy Festival planned for January‘Aha Ki’ole lays groundwork for community-based tourism planRough seas and rough start to Maui basketball […]

  7. […] character, history and traditions,” wrote ASC, an agreement was reached that would allow the ‘Aha Ki’ole O Molokai to meet publicly with all four of its moku, or districts, before the Safari Explorer would return to Molokai. The final meeting, covering the […]

  8. Who should be making the decisions for Moloka’i? County Maui, which is the official, legitimate, governing body?

    • Maui County offers the only local governmental representation but they have no process or mechanism for controlling overfishing or too much tourism. The ‘Aha Kiole is a local advisory panel to the DLNR, the state organization that regulates all shoreline activity. If the ‘Aha Kiole is to be effective it must learn to work in cooperation with both the DLNR and the County of Maui government.

      • Maui County is part of the illegitimate government of Hawaii that has been handed down since the overthrow of the legal government. The county’s treatment of MVCV has been deplorable, ad nauseum.

      • I agree, the local veterans really got screwed by the county when they played politics over the water line. It was shameful that Maui County would treat our veterans with such disrespect.

      • wasn’t much of the grief heaped on the moloka’i veterans due to the previous admin. of mayor charmaine?

        seems to me things went pretty smooth shortly after the ‘new guy’ got sworn.

        please correct me if i’m wrong.

      • It started with Mayor Tavares and she is central to the MVCV lawsuit against the County where she is named as a defendant. However, Mayor Arakawa did not take the executive action he promised in his campaign to get the veterans the building permit they needed. Once elected he deferred action and said it was out of his control. Legal pressure, not the new mayor, got the permit in place.

      • thank you for the clarification.

        it’s great to have knowledgeable slippahs on the ground over there.

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