The Fight For La'au Point

by Johnny T. Cheng - Date: 2007-05-16 - Word Count: 810 Share This!

There is a battle between the largest private landowner of Moloka'i (the Moloka'i Ranch) and the native Hawaiians over La'au Point on the southwestern tip of Moloka'i. The owner wants to develop La'au Point while giving back 78% of its existing holdings. At first glance, it sounds like a sweet deal, but the locals have viewed this as a threat to the island's sustainability as well as the Hawaiian way of life. Since a USDA directive to cancel a key Moloka'i Enterprise Commission (EC) meeting that would've allowed the Moloka'i residents to have their say in late April, not much has been heard from in the news about this issue. Yet the future of the island of Moloka'i remains in the balance and there seems to be suspicion regarding some behind-the-scenes politics that conspire to keep the community out of the loop and powerless against the desires brought upon by a mixture of money and politics.

While the fight over La'au Point centers around the intended usage of the land, the politics and implications of the move are complex. First of all, Moloka'i Ranch intends to develop La'au Point into 200 luxury subdivisions of land for upscale housing along with a new golf course. Moloka'i Ranch seeks to revive its currently flailing investment while bringing the island up to par with the other Hawaiian Islands from an economic point of view (through upscale tourism). The owner claims to be losing $300,000 per day on its existing golf course and holdings and further notes the property is undercapitalized by $3.5 million. This in turn affects their ability employ Moloka'i residents. The owners perhaps view the development of La'au Point as a win-win situation where they can make their own investment pay off while "improving the island's perpetually dismal economy."

To the native Hawaiians living in Moloka'i opposed to the La'au Point development, they perceive this as the death knell to the slower-paced, rural, and Hawaiian way of life as well as the well-being of the island. One of the biggest reasons why La'au Point is so hotly contested is because it's one of the most important local fishing areas on the island. This is possibly due to its location being near the Penguin Bank, which was once a land bridge to O'ahu but now home to coral reefs and a high degree of biodiversity. Another reason to protest development is the dilution of the island's population by more influential and wealthy landowners who don't understand the Hawaiian way of life. Clearly this would decay the rural and less-modernized lifestyle that many locals are currently holding onto since the wealthy tends to favor more amenities and other "plastic pleasures" not necessarily good for the environment and for the island's self-sufficiency. Finally, there is significant doubt about whether the island can support development as it would require additional diversion of an already limited water supply. Requiring the requested 1,000,000 gallons of water a day to be diverted from the fragile east Moloka'i interior would certainly put pressure on its existence and stature as one of the last remaining areas of Hawaiian wilderness. The current water supply already suffers from high salinity from low water tables (a problem Australians can certainly identify with). So it's not inconceivable to see the disappearance of the Halawa Valley as well as its beautiful waterfalls should water diversion and deforestation to support the development be allowed to proceed.

Ultimately, the battle for La'au Point comes down to yet another resource conflict between economics and politics versus culture and the environment. Similar battles have occurred in the other Hawaiian Islands with the result tending to be in favor of development. The problems already observed in those islands as a result of modernization include the displacement of native Hawaiians from their homes due to the escalating real-estate prices, the highest rate of extinction of native flora and fauna in the United States (and possibly the world) as a result of urbanization and pollution, and the loss of the true Hawaiian way of life as the culture becomes relegated to tourist shows and lu'aus among others. Given these issues, one must wonder: is it necessary that development must occur everywhere around the world when science and history tell us it's not sustainable in the long term? Of course our American system tends to reward development and consumerism, which is why Hawai'i has prospered economically despite the problems it faces now. So from that standpoint, perhaps change is inevitable in Moloka'i as the volatile mix of economics and politics is an unstoppable force that appeals to our human nature to enjoy life and ensure survivability in the future (at least economically). Nonetheless with respect to La'au Point, it's hard not to root for the underdog so that at least there's some resistance to the economic and political juggernaut bred by our American "democracy."

Related Tags: property, development, water, hawaii, ranch, hawaiian, molokai, native, conservation, usda, laau, way of life

Johnny T. Cheng is the author of a waterfalls blog as well as nature books published by Story Nature Press. Find out more about Hawai'i Waterfalls from his blog at as well as his published works at

Your Article Search Directory : Find in Articles

© The article above is copyrighted by it's author. You're allowed to distribute this work according to the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license.

Recent articles in this category:

Most viewed articles in this category: