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Council committee endorses purchase of Ka‘u coastal lands


If the county moves ahead with the purchase of more than 1,200 acres of Ka‘u coastline, as the County Council’s Finance Committee recommended Tuesday, it will create the largest beach park in the state, Lehua Lopez-Mau said.

“Now is the time to purchase land for future use and future needs,” said Lopez-Mau, the former executive director for Na Ohana O Honuapo. “We have a willing seller.”

The land, referred to as the Kaunamano property, would be combined with the Kawa land the county already bought several years ago, and is already fenced. The county would not need to do anything with the property for years, Lopez-Mau said, but could “land bank” it for later.

The lands would be named Kaunamano-Honuapo Park if purchased.

The Finance Committee unanimously approved a resolution authorizing the county to buy the land, after an independent appraisal. The council will still need to approve the resolution. The property is currently listed for sale at $10.8 million. County records show a combined market value of $3,085,000 and a net taxable value of $530,900.

EWM Enterprises LP of Las Vegas purchased the lands, which roughly run from Mamalahoa Highway to the coastline near Naalehu, in 2009. Joseph David Richardson, representing EWM, said the company is ready to go into negotiations for acquisition.

The site has four miles of undeveloped shoreline vistas, with extensive fishing and ocean resources.

Several testifiers cited a 2004 archaeological inventory survey that identified 444 sites with more than 3,900 features, including enclosures, mounds, platforms, walls, salt pans, walled terraces and trails.

Zachary DeBernardi, 82, testified from Ka‘u about the translations Mary Kawena Pukui, who was born and raised in Kaunamano mauka, gave to the area, called Kaunamano.

Pukui said the name means “Multitudes are placed here,” DeBernardi said.

“The multitudes that Mrs. Pukui speaks of are the many, many poe kahiko, people of old, who made their homes here, fished here, stored their thngs here, prayed here and buried their people here,” he added. “I would like to say that the presence of so many important sites that are culturally and historically important not only to Native Hawaiians, but to all the residents of Hawaii Island, (is a) compelling reason for preservation and protection by the County of Hawaii.”

Michelle Galimba of Kuahiwi Ranch also offered some contemporary reasons to preserve the property.

“The natural beauty of the site is an important consideration,” Galimba wrote in a 2012 letter to the county’s Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission. “The view across this property down the coast towards Kilauea, so sweeping and uncluttered by development, is one that many residents of Ka‘u take great pride and pleasure in.”

In 2012, the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Commission listed the property as its fourth-highest priority.

That year, a 50-lot luxury subdivision was being considered for the site.

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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