The Maui News: “Wildland ‘live-fire’ drills to start Tuesday”

Wildland ‘live-fire’ drills to start Tuesday

The Maui Fire Department will conduct a series of wildland “live-fire” training exercises in north Kihei from Tuesday through Thursday and again April 24 and 25, the department announced Sunday.

Live-fire training will take place on 48 acres of former sugar cane fields on Alexander & Baldwin property, about a quarter-mile to 1 mile northeast of Hale Piilani Park and homes on the east end of Kaiolohia Street in Kihei, said Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto.

In addition to providing firefighters with valuable training, the fallow sugar cane slated for burning will serve as a safety buffer from any future wildfires that might erupt upwind from the north Kihei neighborhood.

With the shutdown of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. in December, the heavy equipment and personnel that previously assisted the Fire Department with cane field fires no longer exist. The once-lush cane fields have grown fallow and, in some cases, have become vastly overgrown after the recent winter rains. By selectively burning out specific areas, the department is effectively assisting A&B with creating a safety buffer next to homes and mitigating some of the dangers to residents, Taomoto said.

During the training sessions, Kihei residents can expect to see and smell smoke, and possibly see flames. Burning hours will be from about 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Individuals with respiratory issues should keep their windows closed, use air conditioning and stay indoors during these hours.

The Fire Department and the Maui Incident Management Team have carefully planned out these burn exercises to minimize the risk of fire spreading beyond the intended burn area, Taomoto said. Fire crews and additional equipment will be standing by to help control any fires that threaten to jump containment lines.

For any questions about the exercises, contact the department’s Fire Services Office at 270-5542 during normal business hours.

The Maui News: “A&B planning pongamia project on former HC&S land”

A&B planning pongamia project on former HC&S land

Tree’s seed oil can be used for biofuel

A demonstration project to grow pongamia on old Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. land in the Maalaea/north Kihei area could get underway in mid-May, an Alexander & Baldwin official said. The tree from India and Australia could produce 400 gallons of biofuel per acre from its seeds. — TerViva photo

Alexander & Baldwin is close to formalizing a partnership with a seed oil producing company on a 250-acre demonstration project to produce biofuels from the pongamia tree on old sugar fields with planting possibly to begin in mid-May.

Darren Pai, A&B spokesman, said Friday that pongamia, a long-living tree from India and Australia, also offers the possibility of producing food and fuel — with cattle grazing or other crops grown between the tree rows.

“We believe pongamia can help diversify agriculture production on Maui while also potentially addressing our community’s need for renewable fuels and bioenergy,” Pai said. “Transitioning the former plantation lands into diversified agriculture provides an opportunity to look at growing more energy crops locally.”

A&B has been in discussions for a few years with Oakland, Calif., based TerViva, which has been working on smaller pongamia projects in Hawaii, he said. “The transition of the former sugar plantation resulted in an opportunity to work together on a larger project,” Pai said.

Since Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. harvested its last sugar cane in December, parent company A&B has been looking for uses for the 36,000 acres of fields in Central and Upcountry Maui. The company has ongoing livestock partnerships and is looking at working with MauiGrown Coffee on expanding its coffee fields to old sugar land, possibly near the intersection of Omaopio and Pulehu roads or below Haliimaile.

TerViva is a 6-year-old company with offices in Hawaii, California and Florida that grows the orchard crop pongamia, a nongenetically modified organism tree that can be grown with little or no irrigation, according to the company’s website.

The seed oil from the tree may be used to produce biofuels. The residual pongamia seed cake, which is high in nitrogen and protein, can be used in fertilizer, animal feed supplements or as a feedstock for other bioenergy, including biogas production, Pai said.

A&B will be “partnering with TerViva on an initial 250-acre demonstration project with the possibility of expanding up to 2,000 acres or more if all goes well,” said Pai.

The two companies “are close to finalizing our partnership,” Pai said, adding that planting could begin in mid-May. When asked if A&B would lease the land to TerViva or grow the plant itself with TerViva, Pai said: “TerViva will grow the pongamia and manage the project with support from A&B.”

The Maalaea/north Kihei site was selected because of good sun exposure, productive soil, access to irrigation and other conditions like grade and accessibility, he said. Farming the tree will require some drip irrigation, but the water needs will be less than equivalent acres of sugar cane.

“Pongamia has grown well in smaller projects on Oahu and Hawaii Island without any environmental concerns,” Pai said.

Pongamia produces an annual harvest of seeds similar to soybeans, he said. TerViva estimates that 400 gallons of oil can be produced per acre.

“The purpose of our project is to confirm pongamia’s agronomic suitability in Central Maui and to determine production costs and yields at commercial scale,” Pai said.

It was not clear if A&B would process the plant on Maui. Pai said that A&B and TerViva “will evaluate together the best uses and optimal logistics for the crop, which could involve processing the crop on Maui.”

Pai said the processing of pongamia is similar to that of soybeans “and at scale could create additional jobs beyond field-related activities.”

Joanne Ivancic, executive director of the nonprofit Advanced Biofuels USA, had good things to say about TerViva.

“I have been impressed with the young people at TerViva who work with pongamia,” said Ivancic in response to an earlier story about A&B’s diversified agriculture plans that mentioned pongamia. Advanced Biofuels promotes biofuels for energy security, economic development and pollution control.

She said pongamia, a legume that fixes nitrogen to the soil, may be better for the land than hemp or sunflowers, which can be quite demanding of the soil. Pacific Biodiesel is working on a 115-acre sunflower demonstration plot on old Wailuku Sugar land near the Kuihelani and Honoapiilani highway intersection and hemp has been promoted as a farm crop for old HC&S lands, including by Rep. Kaniela Ing. The South Maui representative teamed with Oahu Rep. Cynthia Thielen during the last legislative session on possible measures to help HC&S transition to industrial hemp.

“At a conference in Washington, D.C., in early March, I was impressed with TerViva’s vision of an eventual multiuse way to grow these legume trees, incorporating pastureland forage so that the manure from the cattle will help to fertilize the trees and the grasses will serve to hold the soil,” Ivancic said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

The Maui News: “Water company seeks sale of 4,500 acres of watershed land”

Water company seeks sale of 4,500 acres of watershed land

Deal would not include the Waikapu ditch or any water delivery systems

Avery Chumbley

WAILUKU — Eight years of growing losses have prompted Wailuku Water Co. to ask the state Public Utilities Commission for permission to sell about 4,500 acres of its land in the West Maui Mountains.

The commission long ago suspended any asset sales while stream-flow standards in a contested case hearing were being worked out. On Friday, the company filed a request with the commission asking it to lift the suspension.

“Nine years have passed,” Wailuku Water Co. President Avery Chumbley said Tuesday. “We are quite frankly in a financial situation where we can no longer continue to sustain the losses

that we have for the last eight years in a row. And we have an opportunity to sell some of the underlying land.”

The company wants to sell about 4,500 acres for $3.4 million to Ting Ranch LLC, a Hawaii limited liability company managed by Duane Ting, according to the docket. The property would include a 3,425-acre parcel mauka of the King Kamehameha Golf Club and about 1,100 acres just above the first parcel.

The sale only involves the land and would not include the Waikapu ditch or any other water delivery systems in place. Those would remain with Wailuku Water Co. That way, Ting Ranch doesn’t need to apply to the commission to become a regulated company.

“It makes (the sale) a fairly cleaner request,” Chumbley said.

Wailuku Water owns about 13,170 acres of West Maui watershed lands. Although it is a private company, the PUC has deemed it “a quasi-public utility because we’re delivering (water) to more than one person,” Chumbley said.

In 2007, the company filed for a certificate of necessity from the PUC, allowing it to provide nonpotable water through its ditch distribution system and establish rates for delivering the water.

However, the PUC decided to suspend the company’s docket in 2008 while the Commission on Water Resource Management finalized in-stream flow standards, determined potential users and issued permits as part of a contested case hearing on surface water use permits.

“The PUC felt that until that decision was made, it would be premature to issue a certificate of necessity,” Chumbley said.

As part of the suspension, the company could not take new customers, raise its rates or sell its assets, he explained. Wailuku Water has lost increasingly more money since then.

Company revenues recently took a hit with the closure of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. and storm damage in Iao Valley. The end of HC&S operations resulted in about a 35 percent decrease in revenues in 2016, “the single largest loss of revenue” for the company, Chumbley said. After flooding in Iao last September, “the county was not using water at the same level they had in the past,” meaning a loss of more revenue. In 2016, the company lost $459,900, according to the docket.

Sorting out the case hearing has taken time, given that there are more than 110 users and applicants for water, including the Maui County, which is asking to increase its intake from the Iao-Waikapu ditch from 1.5 million gallons a day to 3.2 million. The hearing ended last September, but the case was reopened so stream-flow standards could be re-evaluated in light of the closure of HC&S, and that impact on parent company Alexander & Baldwin’s need for water.

If Wailuku Water is allowed to sell the land to Ting Ranch, it would “be able to continue to operate for a while, but it won’t solve the problem in perpetuity,”Chumbley said.

Meanwhile, the suspension also blocks the county’s proposed purchase of 8,764 acres of Wailuku Water’s land, including its water infrastructure, for about $9.5 million. If the county goes through with the purchase, it also will operate the water distribution system on the land that Ting Ranch wants to buy.

But if neither of the purchases happen, “there’s a high probability that Wailuku Water Co. will not survive,” Chumbley said.

Wailuku Water delivers water to more than 45 users. It also provides water to the Department of Water Supply, which treats it so it can be consumed as public drinking water.

Regardless of whether the county or Wailuku Water operates the system in the future, users will still need to pay a fee for delivery of the water, “unless their water comes directly off of the stream to their property, which is pretty rare,”Chumbley said.

The company’s request only asks for the suspension to be lifted so the sales can be made; it will not allow the company to raise its rates or add any customers. He added that it could take two months or longer before the matter could get a hearing because the PUC will have to wait to see if parties involved in the contested case hearing file objections.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

The Maui News: “A&B map shows possible uses for fallow sugar fields”

Article from Maui News

http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2017/04/ab-map-shows-possible-uses-for-fallow-sugar-fields/

APR 1, 2017

A general map showing possible uses of now fallow sugar fields — including areas for possible biodiesel-producing tree orchards, coffee and cacao crops and livestock-irrigated pastures — was projected on a screen as the former general manager of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. gave a presentation at the Maui Energy Conference last week.

Rick Volner, who has transitioned to general manager of diversified agriculture for Alexander & Baldwin, told the audience March 22 that agricultural land use is decreasing statewide. Some of the land has given way to development and other areas have sat fallow for so long it is difficult to reutilize.

However, for old HC&S lands, “We feel we have the significant opportunity to alter that landscape,” said Volner, the last general manager of the last sugar plantation in the state, which shut down in December. “Our lands are uniquely positioned to succeed in diversified agriculture.”

“It’s very difficult, almost impossible, to find the type of contiguous lands we have access to here in the central valley of Maui,” Volner said. “We have existing water infrastructure. We’re close to cargo ports, whether it’s by sea or by air. And we have a very strong labor base, a labor base that previously worked these fields and is basically sitting idle at this point.”

But even with all of the advantages, there are “significant challenges,” he said. Though he did not specifically cite the challenges, HC&S had faced community opposition in recent years for its cane burning, use of pesticides and other farming practices.

A&B also is facing a challenge from taro farmers and Native Hawaiian practitioners over its long-held diversions of water from East Maui. The state Board of Land and Natural Resources currently is considering a 30-year lease for the continuation of the more than 100-year-old diversions through tunnels, siphons and ditches to fields in Upcountry and Central Maui. The Commission on Water Resource Management currently is establishing stream-flow standards for diverted streams.

A&B is seeking 115 million gallons a day for its diversified agriculture plans in its lease request.

The slide shown behind Volner gave a general idea of A&B’s plans for the 36,000 acres of old sugar cane land. The map was not very specific but did offer some landmarks, such as towns and Kahului Airport.

An area in north Kihei/Maalaea has been designated for pongamia orchards. According to the BioEnergy Plantations Australia website, the plant, also known as millettia pinnata, is a leguminous tree, native to northern Australia. The oils extracted from the tree can be used as biodiesel.

A&B has set a plot mauka of Pukalani for coffee/cacao production. James “Kimo” Falconer, president of MauiGrown coffee, said Wednesday that his company has been in talks with A&B about lease possibilities for land in the Omaopio/Pulehu road junction area and near Haliimaile. A $13 million special purpose bond bill still alive in the state Legislature could make that expansion of MauiGrown coffee from its current 400 acres in Kaanapali to the former sugar lands a reality, Falconer said.

Biogas feedstock crops are slated for the Spreckelsville area and mechanically harvested row crops around Kahului Airport. Pasture-fed dairy operations are pegged for mauka of Pukalani.

Cattle ranching operations on irrigated and nonirrigated livestock pastures in the Hamakuapoko area, also shown on the map, have been launched, said A&B spokes-man Darren Pai. In December, A&B said cattle-grazing operations had been expanded to 4,000 acres. A&B has been working with Maui Cattle Co., which plans to put about 1,000 head of cattle on the pasturelands this summer.

In December, Volner also talked about an agricultural park that could total 1,000 acres or more on a site near the Kula Agricultural Park. The ag park site was on the map.

Land mauka of Haliimaile has been set aside for large diversified land leases, and orchard crops are slated near Kihei, according to the map.

Pai explained that the map “depicted potential diversified agricultural uses that were identified in our initial analysis of factors such as land characteristics and rainfall.” While some in the community have called for more specific plans from the company for its old sugar fields, Pai said that A&B has shared its plans during regulatory proceedings and at the state Capitol during “Agriculture Day.”

“We are making progress in our efforts to transition former sugar cane lands to diversified agriculture,” Pai said, noting the cattle ranching operations and expanded trials for growing and harvesting of different crops. “We expect to have more announcements in the near future.”

Volner told conference attendees that diversified agriculture will help the state reach its goals of food and fuel self-sufficiency. Gov. David Ige pledged to the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress in Honolulu in September that Hawaii would double its food production from 10 to 20 percent by 2030.

“We think HC&S, the central valley agricultural lands, will play a significant role in that,” said Volner.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

Kihei Community Association Reports on Hukilike Coalition

The Hukilike No Maui Coalition gave a presentation at the February 27th meeting of the Alliance for Community Associations. A report on the meeting is available here. Text of the article is pasted below.

 

KCA back at Alliance meeting last evening with strong presence

A meeting about agriculture? What’s this have to do with South Maui? A LOT, especially when coupled with affordable housing and environmental conservation

#sierraclub, #kihei  2/28/17 Four KCA volunteers supported our organization’s efforts on Monday evening by trekking to Spreckelsville for the monthly Alliance of Maui Community Associations meeting

Once again we exhibited dedication “to protecting, sustaining and enhancing our ‘aina, kai and ‘ohana.” by listening to presentations and discussion of the future of Agriculture (AG) on Maui. At times there is a misconception that all of South Maui is urban; that neglects a variety of aspects of AG. Just look at all of the now barren cane fields along much of the length of N. Kihei Rd; even more all of the open land mauka of both the Pi’ilani and both sides of the Mokulele Highway to the animal shelter. All the Monsanto land. All in our region.  And we all EAT!

The meeting focused on “Hukilike No Maui,”  a coalition campaign proposed by the Sierra Clubto incorporate Agricultural  Goals, Affordable Housing Goals and Conservation & Preservation Goals in looking to future uses of the former cane land.   SEE TogetherForMaui.org for more on this project. One of the first steps is to understand just what are the housing needs and preferences of Maui’s residents. You can help create that understanding by going to the TogetherForMaui.org Web site and taking the three minute housing survey. Get your friends and kids needing housing to also fill out the survey!

We heard from a variety of involved guys, including

Bill Greenleaf, HI Farmer’s Union (HFFU)– Haleakala Chapter

Ken Yamamura, Agricultural Specialist, County Office of Economic Development

Gerry Ross, Kula Farmer at Kupa’a Farms

Adriane Raff-Corwin, Sierra Club Maui Group Coordinator

Melinda Carroll,  Youth Education Coordinator, Malamalama Maui, the UHMC Culinary School

After introductions, Adriane explained where they hoped to go with Hukilike No Maui, and comments and questions were offered by the other four participants, Association members and other guests .

The date of the March Alliance meeting has not yet been determined.

Announcing the Hukilike No Maui: Together for Maui Coalition!

We are pleased to unveil the start of a new coalition campaign, “Hukilike No Maui: Together for Maui.” The Hukilike Coalition aims to bring the community together to address how the former sugar cane lands can be used to address some of the most pressing issues for Maui: affordable housing, local food and energy security, and conservation. By working together, we can create comprehensive solutions. Over the past 3 months, a group of Maui organizations has put together the outline of this coalition, and now we need more community members to join to help get it up and running.
Sierra Club Maui Group will be unveiling the coalition’s main goals at its Annual Meeting:
Saturday, February 25th, 2017
11 am – 3 pm
Kanoa Senior Center in Spreckelsville, Hana Highway

There will be a presentation and panel discussion about the coalition’s goals, information on how to get involved, and time for everyone attending to give input on our next steps.  We imagine this to be just one of many community gatherings that will help us build ties and continue to work together.
There will also be a potluck lunch and additional food provided by Flatbread Company, Mana Foods, and Whole Foods Market.
Please bring a food dish if you can, as well as your own plate, cup, and utensils to cut down on waste.

The Maui News: “California company buys 300-plus acres of former sugar lands in Paia”

California company buys 300-plus acres of former sugar lands in Paia

Development options left open, but no plans to ‘flip it’

A red outline on a Google Maps image of Paia shows the boundary of the 339-acre parcel of former sugar cane land purchased by EC Paia LLC from Alexander & Baldwin. • Google Maps image

More than 300 acres of former sugar cane land at the edge of Paia town has recently been bought for almost $10 million by a private company based in Northern California.

According to Maui County property tax records, the $9.9 million sale of 339 acres of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. land was made on Dec. 20 to EC Paia LLC. It lists its member/manager in Hawaii business records as Eagle Canyon Capital. Its head is Sam Hirbod, who said he has a home in Wailea and has been coming to Maui for 20 years.

On Tuesday, Hirbod told The Maui News that his family investment and development company has no firm plans for the Paia land, which is mostly set aside as agriculture and a portion in open space.

The owner could seek a change of zoning for other uses, including commercial, said Planning Department Director Will Spence.

The land is adjacent to and mauka of Hana Highway and mauka of the Paia basketball courts. Baldwin Avenue borders the property to the northeast, and it includes the Paia minibypass.

“We have just started the process of just studying the area,” Hirbod said via cellphone from Texas while on a business trip.

His company has developed multifamily housing, commercial projects and community centers on the Mainland, he said, adding that it did not buy the property to “flip it” — that is, making some improvements and then selling it quickly for a profit.

“We are very excited about the opportunity. We looked at some of economic benefits. We understand that a portion of that property was allotted by the county to account for the growth within Paia,” Hirbod said.

Spence said Tuesday that he has to do more research to determine specific allowable uses for the property.

Hirbod explained that he got involved in the land sale “fairly late,” and that the transaction had been between A&B and Paia businessman Michael Baskin, who owns the Paia Inn. Hirbod said his company bought out Baskin’s portion.

Hirbod’s company was known as Pacific Convenience & Fuels of San Ramon, Calif.  Now the business is focused on investments and developments, Hirbod said.

The former company acquired a ConocoPhillips convenience store/gas station operation in the late 2000s, according to reports.

Now, the company will start setting up meetings with the county, the mayor and Maui County Council members as well as those with an interest in the area, Hirbod said. Community meetings will be held after the company gets a sense of its plans for the land.

“I’m a reasonable person who will always listen to good reasonable ideas. If there are reasonable ideas out there I want to hear them,” Hirbod said.

“Our mindset is long-term thinking. Our mindset is respecting (the) culture. Our mindset is adding value to the island, to the city of Paia, to the residents and to the county, as well as ourselves. It’s not that we want to do something as a cost to, a loss of, some other party,” he said.

“I love Maui. I had  opportunities (to do business) on other islands,” said Hirbod, who added that this is his first commercial acquisition in Hawaii.

“When I’m there, I’m home,” said the 46-year-old, who lives in Wailea when on the Valley Isle but also has owned other Maui properties.

Alexander & Baldwin spokesman Darren Pai said via email on Tuesday: “This sale was unique in that we received an unsolicited offer to purchase the property, and we determined that due to its size and location, a sale would not negatively impact our efforts to pursue our diversified agricultural plan.”

A&B is the parent company of HC&S, which closed its more than 100-year-old Central Maui sugar plantation last year. The company aims to transform much of its 36,000 acres of former sugar lands into diversified agriculture.

Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said the Paia sale “kind of caught us by surprise.”

Antone said it was always Mayor Alan Arakawa’s intent to approach HC&S and A&B to keep some of the property open as green space.

He explained that with Baldwin Beach Park across the street and the basketball courts at Lower Paia Park, the stretch would become a north shore regional park. This “Kalama Park” of the north shore would include lands along the coastline that A&B donated to the county when it bought 4 acres for $7 million for the county service center at A&B’s Maui Business Park II in Kahului.

Green space mauka of Hana Highway is envisioned for open space in the area, he said.

“So it will be green across of green,” Antone said.

The open space would not be an entire parcel, but perhaps a football-field-length sized area across from the entrance of Baldwin Beach to the minibypass. The green space could be half as wide of a football field stretching mauka.

“We felt it was the right thing to do for the north shore,” Antone said.

But he added that county officials would work with the new landowners on any possibilities.

Pai said A&B was not aware at the time of the sale of any specific requests from Arakawa.

“But we did note (to the buyer) that the parcel contained the ‘mini Paia Bypass road,’ and took steps to ensure in the sales contract that the county retained its rights to the bypass road,” Pai said.

Hirbod said he “did hear wind” of the county’s wishes for the land, but he said he had not spoken with the county about it.

“We are more than open to collaboration and doing what is right for that property,” he said. He said he’s “always open to listening” to county officials’ concerns or ideas.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

The Maui News: “Mahalo and aloha to plantation life”

Mahalo and aloha to plantation life 

Former Puunene resident Stan Mukai (front) poses Friday next to a banner he had made as a “final farewell” to Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., which ended its sugar operations last month. Standing behind him at the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum in Puunene are former Puunene plantation camp residents, including some from Mukai’s camp, Spanish B. Mukai, 78, now an Oahu resident, said that the banner will be given to the museum to archive with other items from the mill’s closure.

The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

The Maui News: “Council OKs land use changes for A&B housing project”

Council OKs land use changes for A&B housing project

Panel also adopts resolution to end parking concession for Moku‘ula group

Land use entitlements for a portion of Alexander & Baldwin’s Waikapu residential community received final approval Friday by the Maui County Council.

The council approved on second and final reading measures to amend the Wailuku-Kahului Community plan from agricultural district to Waiale Project District South, along with zoning changes from agricultural district to Waiale Project District South (conditional zoning) and to establish permissible land uses, standards of development and allocation of land for the project.

The bills affect nearly 123 acres at the corner of Kuihelani Highway and East Waiko Road. The project is the first phase of A&B’s 545-acre Waiale master-planned community. The north phase of the project will be developed later.

On the south portion of the project, plans call for construction of up to 950 single-family and multifamily homes, with parks, open space and commercial areas. Construction costs are estimated to be more than $219 million.

The project’s next step is to work with the county Department of Planning on the subdivision’s neighborhood design, A&B Properties Vice President Grant Chun  said. The layout and design portions will need to go before the Maui Planning Commission for review and approval, he said.

He added that in the next two to three years, A&B hopes to put up some homes in the first phase and to submit paperwork for permits needed for the north portion of the project.

In May 2012, the state Land Use Commission voted to reclassify more than 500 acres in Waikapu for the Waiale community. The overall project called for building 2,250 homes, commercial areas, a middle school, public facilities and parks in an area bisected by East Waiko Road with Kuihelani Highway to the east and Honoapiilani Highway to the west.

In other action, council members adopted a resolution to end a parking lot concession on county property in Lahaina by the Friends of Moku’ula. The nonprofit was formed to restore and preserve the historic Moku’ula island and Mokuhinia pond, which was a Hawaiian royal residence.

A committee report questioned the group’s financial management and its responsiveness to community and council inquiries about the concession.

The report added that the group’s executive director reported Nov. 29 that the organization has had trouble documenting the use of concession funds since 2003.

Executive Director Blossom Feiteira told the committee that an internal audit showed that the group used parking lot concession money for administration and operations.

“She acknowledged the organization did not adequately spend the money the way they were supposed to for the first 10 years,’ “ the report said.

Documents provided to the committee suggest that the organization directed parking proceeds to its for-profit Ka Lua O Kiha and that the two entities share employees, operating costs and board members. The report notes that parking concession proceeds were supposed to be used only for “restoration and preservation purposes.”

Testifying before the council on Friday, Feiteira said she was in support of the resolution to end the parking concession with the group.

“I think the time has come for financial accountability to be put in place,” she said. “To make my job as an (executive director) easy.”

Feiteira supported first-reading passage of a bill to establish a Hawaiian Cultural Restoration Revolving Fund for the deposit of all proceeds from the parking concession.

According to council documents, the fund shall be used for the “preservation and restoration of Hawaiian historic and cultural artifacts and sites in the county, including the Mokuhinia ecosystem restoration project.”

The concession would be under the control and management of the county or the county’s designee, the documents said.

The measure passed first reading Friday. It requires another council vote for final passage.

Testifier Tama Kaleleiki told council members not to give any more money to the Friends group, calling them “irresponsible and negligent.”

He pointed to the failure to report parking concession finances to the county and the community.

“It’s too late to ask for any patience and understanding from the county,”Kaleleiki said.

He also asked the county to recoup any county money that the organization may have as well as pursue legal action against Friends of Moku’ula for mismanagement.

Another testifier, Mahina Martin, said it’s important “to keep the funding going” to help protect and preserve Moku’ula and Mokuhinia.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.