Hui o Nā Wai ‘Ehā Calls for End of ‘Plantation Politics’
Local farmers and community organizers are calling for the end of the “era of sugar plantations, plantation politics, and rhetoric in Nā Wai ‘Ehā.”
During an impassioned press conference in Wailuku earlier today, members of Hui o Nā Wai ʻEhā expressed their stance on the status of their contested case for water rights.
The group, comprised of farmers from Waikapū, Wailuku, Waiheʻe, and Waiʻehu, is a plaintiff in the longstanding case against Hawaiʻi Commercial & Sugar Company.
HC&S diverted about 30 million gallons of water daily from Nā Wai ʻEhā streams to feed its sugarcane fields in Central Maui for decades.
Last year, Mahi Pono acquired 41,000 acres from HC&S and requested to reopen the nearly completed case to take over the sugar companyʻs water use permit request, prolonging over a decade of litigation.
The state Board of Land and Natural Resources recently granted HC&Sʻ parent company, Alexander & Baldwin, a one-year revocable permit to continue diversions next year, allowing Mahi Pono the water it requested for its 3,700 acres of diversified agriculture.
With this permit, Mahi Pono plans to divert about 45 million gallons of water per day from East Maui streams.
During todayʻs conference, hui member Lani Eckart-Dodd called Mahi Ponoʻs request to reopen the case an effort to “request an inflated, highly unrealistic water allocation.”
“Mahi Pono’s lands were never historically farmed or suited for food production,” Eckart-Dodd added.
“We will not allow almost two decades worth of our collective work as a community and lāhui to restore pono be derailed.”
Eckart-Dodd said water mauka to makai streamflow should be re-established to allow access for the “stewards who are genealogically tied to our lands and waters.”
“The time of exploitation and wastefulness over,” Eckart-Dodd asserted.
Maui Now has reached out to Mahi Pono for a comment and we are awaiting a response.
A hearing for closing arguments in the contested case is scheduled for Nov. 19.
More updates will be added to this story as they develop.