Maui News

Kupuna Group Wants Hanokaoʻo Commercial Free Zone

April 29, 2013, 11:22 AM HST
* Updated April 30, 6:50 AM
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Hanakaoo sign, photo by Wendy Osher.

Hanakaoʻo sign, photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

A group of elders on Maui is calling on the preservation of waters at Hanakaoʻo Beach (also known as Canoe Beach) on Maui as a commercial free zone.

Patricia “Aunty Patty” Nishiyama of the group Nā Kūpuna O Maui called the use of thrill craft in the area disruptive, saying the activity creates “noise pollution,” and is “an extreme danger” because of multiple conflicting uses of near-shore waters.

For the past year and a half, the group has led awareness rallies, written letters in opposition to competing usage, launched a petition drive, and corresponded with local government leaders for help.

During the previous legislative session, members of the group pushed for the passage of an ocean safety bill aimed at protecting beach-goers in near-shore waters of West Maui.


“The worries of Nā Kūpuna O Maui have impacted our enjoyment of Canoe Beach and our ability to exercise our cultural rights,” said Nishiyama in a complaint letter.

Sunday, January 8th Ocean Memorial.  Photo Credit:  Kimo Knutson.

Sunday, January 8, 2012 Ocean Memorial following fatal boating incident at Hanakaoʻo. File photo credit: Kimo Knutson.


She described the area as once being rich with ʻōpelu, and a traditional fishing ground utilized by Hawaiian fishermen.  ʻŌpelu, as defined in the Hawaiian Dictionary (Ka puke wehewehe a Pukui/Elbert), is a mackerel scad, and also considered an ʻaumakua (family or personal god) for some people.

“Tutus are splashing in the shallow waters with their moʻopuna, while at the same time, paying customers, day in and day out, are being transported in power boats from the beach to the jet ski platform or parasail boats idling offshore,” she said.  She continued asking the question, “What is more important the almighty dollar or the safety of our people?”

In the letter she further states, “This is where we come to lay back, talk story, paddle, swim and play and not to get anxious about our children, or our friends or our neighbors getting run over by a careless power boat operator. This is not about an accident waiting to happen. This is about avoiding another fatality.”


The efforts come following the passing of William Kalanikai “Uncle Billy” Gonzales, who suffered fatal injuries in a boating accident in December 2011 at Hanakaoʻo Beach in Lāhainā.

Nishiyama said that at this point, “Nā Kūpuna O Maui is frustrated and fearful,” and plans to take action by addressing concerns through the ʻAha Moku O Maui Council, a panel that advises the state on Indigenous Resource Management and practices specific to various island districts.

“We demand that Canoe Beach also known as Hanakaoʻo Beach be set aside for the people,” she stated in her letter.

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