Category Archives: Community

PUEO to Rotary: TMT Offers Educational Opportunities We Shouldn’t Miss

Keahi Warfield, president of the native Hawaiian group Perpetuating Unique Education Opportunities (PUEO), spoke at the Rotary Club of Honolulu Tuesday. He said the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) offers educational opportunities we shouldn’t pass up.

Keahi Warfield, PUEO President

Rotary sign

Mitch D’Olier, past president of the Rotary Club of Honolulu

From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser:

Pro-telescope group touts educational benefits

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press

August 17, 2016

Building a giant telescope atop Mauna Kea will come with educational opportunities that Hawaii shouldn’t close the door to, the president of a Native Hawaiian group that supports the project said.

Perpetuating Unique Educational Opportunities President Keahi Warfield told a Waikiki hotel banquet room filled with members of the Rotary Club of Honolulu on Tuesday that he believes there’s a “silent majority” of the public who support the Thirty Meter Telescope….

Read the rest

And I strongly agree – both that the TMT has educational opportunities for our Big Island keiki that we cannot pass up, and about the “silent majority” in favor of the project.

Richard Ha, Keahi Warfield

I introduced Keahi before he spoke and here’s what I said:

Who are we? I’m from the Kamahele family in lower Puna. My great-great grandfather had 12 boys and one daughter. All the Kamaheles are related.

I’ve been farming for 30 years. Our farm is Hamakua Springs, which is on 600 fee-simple acres. I describe us as being a triple bottom-line farmer. To be sustainable we need to be socially, environmentally and economically sustainable. The “social” aspect includes culture and education. It includes all of us, not just a few of us. This is the part I am especially focused on.

The County of Hawaii has the lowest median family income, and the highest suicide and homelessness rates. The game changer is education. It’s not the largest, strongest or the smartest that survives – it’s the ones who can adapt to change.

The pluses have to exceed the minuses or you go extinct. That applies to organisms and organizations as well as civilizations.

Education is the game changer that allows us to adapt.

Regarding the TMT: Henry Yang is the president of the TMT. And he’s the type of person you can do business with on a handshake. He and Jean-Lou Chameau, the former president of Cal Tech and now president of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, visited the Big Island 15 times. They became well known in the community.

One visit to Keaukaha was memorable. They dropped in unexpectedly at a Kupuna Day function. They had become so familiar that the people greeted them with, “Come, come, come, go eat.”

Keiki education is the common denominator that everyone on all sides of the issue can agree upon. That’s how the THINK fund was born. The THINK Fund is a one million annual contribution to Big Island student education from the Thirty Meter Telescope. They left it to the community to choose the direction.

I’ve been in the middle of this issue for nearly ten years, and I am very pleased that PUEO has taken a seat at the table.

I have noticed in the last few months that public opinion is shifting. In the Ward Research poll just released, the number opposed to the TMT has gone down from 39 percent to 31 percent. I have a Facebook page that talks about ag and energy and I’ve noticed many more Hawaiian surname “likes,” compared to just three months ago. I also notice more young people participating. This is the most encouraging part to me.

My role now is support. I can see the young people starting to come out and I could not be more pleased.

The PUEO group is made up of very credible native Hawaiian people. In all my years of knowing them, they only talk about the community, the keiki, and future generations. I am very proud to be allowed to work with these people. 

Keahi is the perfect leader for PUEO. I’ll do everything I can to support his efforts. Aloha


DOT Turns Over Palekai to Youth Education Group

On Monday, the Hawai‘i State Department of Transportation signed over about four acres of land at Keaukaha’s Palekai, formerly known as Radio Bay, to the non-profit group Keaukaha One Youth Development.


The 12-month revocable permit will allow Keahi Warfield and others in the community, including Patrick Kahawaiola‘a, president of the Keaukaha Community Association, to spearhead a community project to restore the double-hulled navigating canoe Hokualaka‘i.


The terms of the revokable permit are for twelve months, and then the Harbors Divison has the option to extend for an additional 30 calendar days. Extensions beyond the 30 days will require Land Board Approval.

It was a beautiful, breezy sunny day when the signing ceremony took place, outside next to the bay. Hokualaka‘i was on one side of the gathering and Mauna Kea was a backdrop across the bay on the other. Community members, legislators and employees from the Department of Transportation were present.


Keahi Warfield, who runs a children’s after-school program there on the site, said Keaukaha is an ocean community, and the purpose of the non-profit is to ensure children understand ocean activities.

Hawai‘i State Senator Lorraine Inouye spoke about the transfer of Palekai being unusual and a special day for the community.


“Rarely do you see this kind of transfer happen between the state and a community,” she said. “It’s nice to know agencies and the state respond to a community’s request.”

patrick kahawaiolaa

Kahawaiola‘a spoke too, calling it a momentous occasion and a first. “We will have to live up to the example so more partnerships like this can be made throughout the State.”

They will, he said. “We are fierce Keaukaha people. We will work hard and we will show you what we can do.”


Kuhio Day at Panaewa Park

It was great to see the kids running around and having so much fun for the Prince Kuhio Day celebration at Panaewa Park. There was an Easter egg hunt, food, music and astronomy exhibits from different telescopes.



Doug Simons, executive director of the Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope, doesn’t normally walk around in shorts like me, but there he was, cooking hamburgers.


Great day.



“Yoohoo! I’m Looking for an Uhu!”

Photo courtesy of Lindsey Kramer/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Recently I heard Suzanne Case of the Department of Land and Natural Resources speak about overfishing here in Hawai‘i, and what she said really rang a bell with me.

When I was growing up, my family lived on the ocean at Maku‘u. I can remember my Uncle Sonny being very concerned about not overfishing. I can really identify with concern about ocean resources.

When I was in Vietnam, I saw a school once of maybe 30 or 40 uhu, huge ones, ten-pounders. But in Hawai‘i, I only ever saw one or two at a time and I had no idea they swam in schools like that. So when I saw that big school in Vietnam I thought it must be a different species.

But Suzanne had a photo of a school of uhu just like that and she said that was their normal condition. I almost fell over. The consequences of overfishing became very clear to me.

It was fascinating to learn that some of our local communities are saying enough is enough and that they have to do something. Leslie Lang talked to Suzanne and found out more:


Our ocean fisheries have declined 75 percent over the last hundred years, says Suzanne Case, chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

In the past, Hawai‘i’s natural resources were controlled by kapu when we had the ahupua‘a system, but that sort of protection is long gone.

Today, some community groups are stepping forward to restrict fishing in their local waters in order to rebuild dwindling marine populations.

A community group in Ha‘ena, Kaua‘i was the first group to pass a set of community-based subsistence fishing rules. That was last summer, after they worked on developing the rules for 16 years.

The result is a co-management process with the state. “The state has to enforce the rules,” says Case. “The local community cannot go out and be vigilantes.”

She explained that they are switching to traditional fishing practices. “So that means no monofilament nets, one pole and line fishing, and you can’t fish during spawning aggregation. All of this means you fish more carefully, as opposed to you just go out and wipe out a whole school of uhu or weke because you can.”

Now Ka‘upulehu, in west Hawai‘i, is working on a similar process. “They’re talking about a closure – no fishing out to 20 fathoms for ten years,” says Case. “And the community, as far as I know, has committed not only to not fishing there, but to not displace their fishing efforts by going elsewhere. They’re serious about it.”

There was a formal public rulemaking hearing about this last Thursday.

The Ka‘upulehu Marine Life Advisory Council, formed in 1995, consists primarily of lineal descendants of people who go way back in the community. “There’s a lot of inherited local knowledge,” says Case.

The Council has also created a program called Makai Watch, which determined what to look for, who to call for enforcement if needed, and how to provide outreach to people who are users of the area in the first place, so they know the area’s rules.

These sorts of community-based action are happening elsewhere, too. Case says a Kipahulu, Maui group has imposed a voluntary three-year ‘opihi rest area. “They’re trying to get one of their key ‘opihi grounds that has been overfished to recover. They’re trying to let the remaining ‘opihi get big and have lots of babies. They’re not even waiting for state legislation – they put a voluntary ban in place. It’s not legally enforceable, but you want to respect it.”

In the old days, of course, natural resources were protected by the ahupua‘a system. “The ahupua‘a boundaries extended out beyond the reef,” she says, “so that included the estuaries and the fishponds and the near shore environment, and the reef and the outer reef, and then out into the deep, as well as the mauka to makai part. We had a pretty large population, with fish being a major source of protein.”

The ahupua‘a system worked. “It sustained the population,” she says. “Back in 1839, Kamehameha the Third codified the local control into law, and the konohiki had the right to put kapu on fish, or make some off-limits during the season, or the like. In the Mahele, those were actually identified as property rights.”

But then the system changed.

“In the overthrow, when Hawai‘i became a territory, the Organic Act of Hawai‘i in 1900 implemented full open access to fisheries, and there were a series of laws to codify the private ownership and konohiki rights and responsibilities for managing fisheries,” she says.

“The Organic Act provided that if you had a private property fishing right, you could register it but then the Territory could condemn it. So it was a very intentional act to total open-access to fisheries.”

Fast forward to the 21st century, when we are much more efficient – and less sustainable – at fishing. We can get into deeper water,  stay down longer, and GPS allows us to find big schools of fish.

“With the loss of local knowledge, too,” she says, “you may lose some very important elements, such as when certain fish spawn so you don’t fish during the spawning seasons. And how big fish are when they finally reach reproductive size.”

She points out that older, bigger fish are far more fertile than those just barely of reproductive size. “Unfortunately, we like to fish the big fish, which are by far the most productive. For instance, six-inch weke only spawn once a year and produce 90,000 eggs,” she says. Compare that to a twelve-inch weke that spawns four or five times a year, producing 45 million eggs each time. That’s 180 million eggs per year, instead of 90 thousand.

“So what we need to do to improve our fisheries is find ways to let the fish get bigger,” she says. “So that could be with the right kind of legislation, for a minimum catch size but also a maximum catch size so they can grow big in protected areas and spill over into the adjacent areas and help those areas restore their fisheries.”

But legislation takes time, and also depends on cooperation from the community. This is what’s happening in communities around Hawai‘i, as well as throughout the Pacific.

“The goal is to have fisheries rebound so there’s more fish for people to fish,” she says. “That’s the shared long-term goal and it requires a long-term commitment, not just short-term gain.”


Hurricane Ignacio Update: Sunday 2:45 p.m.

Update, 8:45 p.m.:

Civil Defense, Young Brothers and everyone lifted the Tropical Storm watch. We dodged the bullet again. Thanks, everyone!


It’s been quite a hurricane season already this year!

Right now we are watching Ignacio. At 2:45 p.m. today, Hawaii County Civil Defense announced that Hurricane Ignacio was posing an “anticipated reduced threat.” It’s still a Category 3 hurricane, currently with sustained winds of 115 miles per hour and higher gusts, and right now it’s about 380 miles east of Hilo moving 12 miles per hour to the northwest. They say it’s gradually weakening.

Everything indicates, too, that it’s moving more to the north of the islands now and will move parallel to the Hamakua coast. This is good, but what worries me is the size of the hurricane. As it moves along its path, spinning counterclockwise, its winds affect us on the Hamakua coast first. This is a big coastline up alongside a mountain, so it operates like a valley. The winds come from the north and are forced up against the slopes of the mountain. The energy doesn’t go over the top of the mountain, but runs down the slope and is concentrated along the Hamakua coast from the north to the south.

That’s why we’re still a bit concerned about this one. That’s good news that it’s weakening, but its winds are still 115 miles per hour and it only takes 55 mph winds to flatten a banana tree.

So they can say what they way to say, but at the moment those winds are traveling at 100-something miles per hour, so am I going to go catch a plan to Honolulu because I’m so sure nothing’s going to happen here? I don’t think so!

But we’ve secured everything at the farm that needs to be secured. So we’ll wait and see.

Take care everyone. The update from Hawaii County Civil Defense is here:

This is a Hurricane information update for Sunday August 30th at 2:45PM.

As of 2:00 PM this afternoon Hurricane Ignacio was continuing on a northwest track at 12 miles per hour and remains a category 3 hurricane. Ignacio was located approximately 380 miles east of Hilo and recording sustained winds of 115 miles per hour with higher gusts. Hurricane force winds extend outwards from the center up to 30 miles and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 miles.

Although the National Weather Service Tropical Storm Watch for Hawaii Island remains in effect, the present track and gradual weakening of Ignacio is presenting with an anticipated reduced threat to Hawaii Island. Based on the anticipated and improved forecast outlook, evacuation centers will not be opened at this time. The Civil Defense Agency will continue to maintain close communication with the National Weather Service and monitor the system. 

All DOE public schools and private schools will be open tomorrow.

In addition all government offices will be open for normal business. 

The High Surf Warning issued for the east facing shores of Hawaii Island will remain in effect through 6:00PM Tuesday evening. Surf heights are expected to increase today and build to possibly 15 to 20 feet. Residents in low lying coastal areas and boat owners are advised to take necessary precautions. 

Please monitor your local radio broadcast for additional updates.


Great Info Meeting on How Kaua‘i Formed its Electric Utility Co-op

Richard Ha writes:

We had an interesting presentation Friday from two executives from Kaua‘i’s electrical utility, the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC). David Bissell is CEO, and Dennis Esaki was a founding member who only recently left the KIUC board.


It was amazing to hear what KIUC went through to purchase Kaua‘i Electric Company and form the utility cooperative. The Kaua‘i County Council and mayor were originally against the purchase, and the PUC turned down its first purchase bid as not being in the best interest of the users. But the founding group continued to rework its plan and was ultimately successful the second time it presented a bid.

In total, it was about a two-year process and the group purchased Kaua‘i Electric Company in 2002 for $215 million. And, Esaki said, referring to the county administrators, “they’re all on board now.”

This month, Kaua‘i’s electricity rates are lower than any of the islands but O‘ahu’s (mostly because of the oil price decline). Most months, its rates are a little lower than the Big Island's and a little higher than Maui.

Since 2003, ratepayers have received $30 million in refunds and patronage capital — the amount of money left after all the bills are paid, and the co-op has met its lenders’ requirements. This is money that circulates back into the community. 

Members have $80 million in equity, which is what they own of the co-op. When the utility was purchased 12 years ago, it was 100 percent debt-financed, so the equity at that time was zero.

KIUC has gone from about five percent renewable energy in 2009 to 18 percent today. It will be at about 40 percent by the end of next year.

From the KIUC 2013 Annual Report (click to enlarge):

Annual report

  Annual Report p. 9

The organization of the co-op also reflects what the people of Kaua‘i want, because its board is selected by the people. Esaki and Bissel said that at first there was almost total, and repeated, board turnover as ratepayers regularly voted out board members who weren’t doing what they wanted. Eventually, they said, the board has stabilized.

Projects are financed through national co-op financing, which results in much lower financing costs.

You can watch a video of the meeting below. Thanks to Chester Lowrey for videotaping!

There was a lot of community interest in the KIUC presentation, with a good turnout from various community groups. The presentation was sponsored by three organizations:

The Big Island Community Coalition, the steering committee of which is made up of David DeLuz, Jr., Rockne Freitas, Michelle Galimba, myself, Wallace Ishibashi, Kuulei Kealoha Cooper, Ka‘iu Kimura, D. Noelani Kalipi, Robert Lindsey, H. M. Monty Richards, Marcia Sakai, Ku‘u Lehua Veincent, and William Walter.

The board of the Hilo-Hamakua Community Development Corporation, which is President Donna Johnson, Judi Steinman, Glenn Carvalho, Eric Weinert, Jason Moniz, Gerald DeMello, Colleen Aina, and Richard Ha.

And Hawai‘i Farmers and Ranchers United, which represents more than 90 percent of the farming goods produced on the Big Island.

Ed Olson donated the use of his Wainaku Executive Center for the meeting.

We have formed a steering committee to discuss this further. The committee consists of Gerald DeMello, Michelle Galimba, Wally Ishibashi, Donna Johnson, Eric Weinert, Vincent Paul Pontieux, Marco Mangelsdorf, Russell Ruderman, and myself. I’ll keep you posted on further developments.

Edited 12/21/14 at 10:45 pm; 1/5/15; 1/30/15.


Kauai Island Utility Co-op Execs To Brief On How They Formed Their Co-Op

Richard Ha writes:

We have invited Dennis Esaki, a founder of Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), and David Bissell, CEO of KIUC, to speak to us about how one forms a community-based utility. Having such a utility cooperative here on the Big Island would give us more control over our destiny.

It will be held this Friday, December 19, 11:30 a.m., at the former C. Brewer Executive Center in Wainaku. The event is sponsored by the Big Island Community Coalition, the Hilo Hamakua Coast Development Corporation, and the Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United. The Ed Olson Trust is providing the Wainaku Executive Center facilities. Please R.S.V.P.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative was formed in 2002 when Citizens Communications’ Kauai Electric announced that it was selling the Kaua‘i utility. We have a similar situation right now in that Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) recently announced it is selling to NextEra.

NextEra plans to use utility-scale solar, backed up by liquid natural gas (LNG) as a bridge fuel. The average shale oil and gas well lasts only five years, so that model is a concern for Big Island rate payers. (This link is an even more in-depth explanation of how shale oil is massively over-hyped, and analyzes the best data available.) Fortunately, we have geothermal we can use in place of LNG on the Big Island. We have options.

This is not an endorsement of converting to a co-op so much as it is an informational briefing.

Please R.S.V.P. to


Guest Post: First Hilo-Hamakua Meeting on Agr & Food Security

I asked Dr. Bruce Mathews, interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM) at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo (UHH), to write a guest post about speaking at the first of our community meetings on agriculture and food security.

Dr. Mathews writes:

Mahalo for inviting me to present an overview of Hawaii’s soil resource base for agriculture from the pre-European contact era to the present during the first part of HHCDC Symposia Series on Agriculture and Food Security.

I found that the speakers during the first session provided a solid overview of the current realities facing our local agriculture from all perspectives (resources, new precision technologies, economics, policies, etc.). I appreciated the candid discussions regarding the growth constraints faced by many crop sectors as long as there is strong import competition from continental-based operations (CBOs) and heavy dependence on imported energy and nutrient inputs for our farms.

At the end of my talk I shared a bit about my concerns regarding what I called sustainability madness and ecological imperialism. Many people are very concerned about local use of agricultural chemicals (mainly synthetic biocides such as pesticides, herbicides, etc.) and GMOs, yet the majority in Hawaii consume foods every day that are imported from CBOs where synthetic biocides and (or) GMOs were used in their production.

No doubt there is quite a bit of not in my back yard (NIMBY) ecological imperialism/ecological hypocrisy going on here and this has implications for local society as a whole.

On the other side of the coin, the best genetic manipulations in the world won’t work for long to support economic yields if we cultivate soils depleted of nutrients, organic matter, and beneficial microbial and faunal balance. The problems of climate change such as drought will only be magnified in such soils.

Yesterday I met with a group of current and former UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management (CAFNRM) students who had leased some land with relatively good soil to farm but recently gave up the lease after raising several different truck crops. Some of the dilemmas that they mentioned facing were the lack of viable organic options to control certain pests, time and labor needed to control weeds when herbicides were not used, security challenges, etc. Obviously, they could not sell much of what did not grow well without effective pest and weed control.  There is some zealous Garden of Eden like idealism that permeates the thinking of many until they have faced the reality of actually trying to farm in Hawai‘i.

I hope that my talk also brought to light that with increasing population and cropping intensification Native Hawaiians in the pre-European contact era indeed faced challenges and threats to sustainability despite far fewer constraints posed by invasive species.

Finally, I trust human ingenuity and integrated approaches to solve the challenges we currently face. In contrast to the polarized, advocacy-based discussions seen at some recent agricultural meetings, the dialogue at the first session of this symposia was surprisingly well-received, cordial, deep, and meaningful.

The challenges that agriculture faces in Hawaii demand an open and understanding approach based on the best scientific and verifiable on-farm evidence available so that we can best self-correct as a society for a more sustainable future.

I look forward to attending the 2nd and 3rd sessions of the symposia series.

The three-part symposium is being hosted by the Hilo Hamakua Community Development Corporation, and, as Dr. Mathews mentioned, the first one went  well.

The next two meetings are November 5th and November 13th; both are from 6-8 p.m., in the Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School Bandroom.

The meetings are open to the public; please come if you’re interested. Read more here.


You’re Invited to a Community Meeting re: Hamakua Agriculture

Richard Ha writes:

Save the dates:

  • Wednesday, October 29
  • Wednesday, November 5
  • Thursday, November 13
  • 6-8 p.m.
  • Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School Bandroom

On these dates, the Hilo Hamakua Community Development Corporation will hold a series of community meetings to discuss agriculture on the Hamakua Coast. All are welcome (and refreshments are free).

We will take a 40,000 foot view of ag and its outside influences, and then look at the resources available to help us, such as the Daniel K. Inouye-Pacific Basin Ag Research Center (PBARC), the College of Tropical Ag and Human Resources (CTAHR), and the College of Ag, Forestry and Natural Resources Management (CAFNRM) at UH Hilo. 

There are many scientists researching various subjects. What do we want them to work on?

Farmers will be at the meeting to share their knowledge and experience.

Are you looking for land to farm? Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate with be there, and the Hamakua Ag Co-op has vacant land.

John Cross, former land manager for C. Brewer/Hilo Coast Processing, will attend. Did you know why all the sugar cane equipment had tracks, rather than rubber tires? Did you know that the plantations frequently planted banyan trees as significant landmarks? 

Jeff Melrose will be at the meetings. He recently did a study that's a snapshot of agriculture on the Big Island. He will talk about on what is grown on the Hamakua coast and why.

Come and talk story with the presenters, learn where you can get additional information, and speak up on what you would like to know more about in the future.

Ag & food security symposia



Hurricane Iselle: The Aftermath & Human Stories

Richard Ha writes:

Soon after Hurricane Iselle hit the Big Island, the Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United (HFRU) core group called a meeting. We wanted to assess damage, and what we found was that some Big Island farmers were in desperate need.

The human stories which were told by some of the affected farmers were hard to take. One of the independent processors told about being in church on Sunday just after the hurricane and not being able to look a farmer, there with his family, in the eye. They both knew what this damage meant to the farmers. The processor told us at the meeting that it brought him to tears.

Diane Ley, executive director of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, was on the phone at the after-hours emergency meeting. Scott Enright, who is chair of the Department of Agriculture, participated by cell phone. He had just landed on O‘ahu and was driving to a meeting.

Farmers and their friends pulled together to bring agencies with resources to meet with farmers at one stop. W.H. Shipman, Ltd. made their offices available to the group for meetings. Lorie Farrell did the real heavy lifting by organizing everything. And the support agencies responded.


We met on Tuesday, on W.H. Shipman, Ltd.’s ground, with about 180 people in attendance. Chris Kanazawa, head of the USDA’s Rural Development; Scott Enright, director of the Board of Agriculture; Laverne Omori, county director of Research and Development. So was Chris Manfredi, president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau.


Various agencies had booths where they provided information about their programs. People gave presentations. AgriLogic, which specializes in risk management insurance for farmers, was there. One of the priorities of HFRU is to increase the percentage of farmers covered by crop insurance.

Mayor Billy Kenoi announced he is hiring DayDay Hopkins to be liaison to the farmers. That is a huge deal; DayDay knows farming. I met two county council candidates for the first time that day, Danny Paleka and Ron Gonzales, and after having short conversations, it was clear to me that both are very thoughtful and know what the spirit of aloha is all about. 

Yesterday I read in the Star-Advertiser that 287,000 Hawaii residents receive aid through the Hawaii Foodbank and its agencies. I called up Ross Sibucao, the young president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, and asked him: “How many papaya farmers are on food stamps?”

He chuckled at my even asking the question. He said, “Probably zero.”

The farmers are the ones feeding the people. They do important work.