Lualualei community fights to save farmland

By The Hawaii Independent Staff
The Hawaii Independent
Hawaii Independent reports - Lualualei community fights to save farmland

In January 2009, MAO Organic Farm secured the protection of 11 acres of agricultural land in Lualualei Valley, Oahu, with the help of funding from the Legacy Land Conservation Program. MAO Organic Farm works in the Waianae community to cultivate a renewed relationship between community, land, and food that transforms the current industrialized model of agriculture into one that returns to aloha aina.

WAIANAE—A cluster of industrial proposals on agricultural lands in Lualualei Valley, including an industrial park and the development of a new landfill, has ignited the community’s concern that, once again, big development is encroaching on Oahu’s ag land.

The Concerned Elders of Waianae, together with KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, will be hosting a sign-waving event along Farrington Highway today at 1:30 p.m. to raise public awareness about the proposed industrialization of farmland in Lualualei Valley. Sign-waving will take place at the corner of Lualualei Naval Road and Hakimo Road, and coincides with an official site visit by the Hawaii Land Use Commission (LUC).

The industrial park proposed by developer Tropic Land, LLC, called the “Nanakuli Community Baseyard,” is the first of these proposals to come before the LUC. The project would require the LUC to reclassify 96 acres in Lualualei Valley from agricultural to urban.

Residents are concerned about the increase in traffic and air pollution, as well as the loss of agricultural lands and the desecration of the cultural landscape that the proposed industrial park will cause.

“Contrary to what Tropic says, this land is good farmland. I know this is because I have family who worked on the farm there not long ago,” said lifelong Maili resident Walterbea Aldeguar. “I believe the land can be productive, if we just have the chance to farm it.”

“Most importantly,” Aldeguar adds, “Lualualei is the repository of our Waianae moolelo, our cultural identity, especially for the stories of the demigod Maui.”

“Taro farms feed people. You definitely can’t eat concrete.”

The developer’s promises of jobs is met with skepticism by many residents. “Jobs?  What jobs?” asked former Hakimo Road resident Alice Greenwood.  “These developers aren’t making new jobs, they are just moving the old ones around. If you want to talk about a lot of jobs, go look at a taro farm—now that’s full employment and taro farms don’t make workers sick. Taro farms feed people. You definitely can’t eat concrete.”

Lualualei Valley is one of only three agricultural districts on Oahu. Development in this area is governed by the Waianae Sustainable Communities Plan, which calls for all industrial land uses to be focused along Farrington Highway. Today, several existing industrial baseyards along Farrington Highway are vacant.

The Waianae Coast, and Lualualei Valley, in particular has been burdened by several incompatible industrial uses that were retroactively permitted by the State to operate on agricultural land. This includes the landfill now owned and operated by PVT, Inc. and the quarry now operated by Pineridge, Inc. and West Oahu Aggregate.  For this industrial park, Tropic estimates over 500 vehicles per hour cutting through Lualualei Valley.

“I fear for the well-being of my neighbors,” said Lori Nordlum, a Princess Kahanu Estates resident. “There is a preschool right here, and farms right there. This is not the place to have 500 heavy-duty trucks every hour whizzing by. This is a rural, farming community, not an industrial zone.”

Currently, the only access to the proposed industrial park is along Hakimo Road, an unimproved country lane that passes a preschool and many functioning farms. Though, as many residents know, truck-drivers avoid the difficult turn at Hakimo Road by cutting through the nearby tranquil subdivision known as Princess Kahanu Estates on Hawaiian Homelands. The developers have told residents that they will use the Navy’s road to access the industrial park, but have so far failed to broker a deal for permission to use that road.

“The proponents of this industrial park have not really done their homework,” added Nordlum.  “We need to look past the promises to see the ramifications of this project. We are talking about the health of our community; our quality of life. Even a million dollars is not worth giving up that.”

“The writing is on the wall,” Greenwood added. “These developers are in the trash business. There would be no reason to put an industrial park all the way at the back of Lualualei Valley, unless you are banking on the next landfill being right next door at Nanakuli B.”

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