canada africa partner reservation Proposed resort on Hawaii’s famous black sand beach faces backlash

Proposed resort on Hawaii’s famous black sand beach faces backlash

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A proposed development that would transform one of Hawaii’s most famous black-sand beaches into a new resort area — including condos, tennis courts and a conference center — is facing backlash from the native Hawaiian community.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach, one of about 20 black sand beaches in the world, is located along the southeastern coast of Hawaii Island in Kau County. Every day, tourists swarm the beach and park illegally along the road. It is one of the few places in the world where endangered hawksbill turtles, which are extremely sensitive to light and noise pollution, make their nests.

The planned mixed-use development, called Punaluu Village, led by Black Sand Beach LLC, was formed by the acquisition of the 434 hectares by California native Eva Liu in 2020. The project defines itself as a “low-density 225 -unit project” – reduced from the original plan of 2,900 housing units due to community feedback.

The new development aims to be “a learning and living space for the community,” according to Black Sand Beach LLC.

Black Sand Beach LLC told USA TODAY that it has invested more than $1 million in restoring the land, such as removing trash, vegetation growth and existing infrastructure left over from the original development project in the late 1960s. The project was passed from developer to developer until 2006, when it lost ownership and fell into a “terrible state of disrepair,” the company said.

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“Alarmed by the lack of local initiatives to revitalize the area, Eva felt an undeniable obligation to intervene,” said Black Sand Beach LLC.

For some Native Hawaiians who have lived in Kau for as long as they can trace their genealogy, the new development threatens the sanctity of Punaluu. “Our lahui (group) from Punaluu have been the stewards of this place,” said Maxx Phillips, director of Hawaii and staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a legal intervention in March to oppose obtaining the development permits.

In addition to restoring some pre-existing facilities – such as a condominium, restaurant, golf course, tennis courts, boat ramp and education center – the developer plans to build a wellness center, a two-and-a-half-story building. condominium, more commercial shops, a marketplace, a conference center with cabin retreats and parking.

More than 100 community members shared their testimony during a public hearing on March 7. There will be a special hearing on Monday.

“If you threaten to destroy the landscape, it is a threat to the family, because our land is our ohana (family),” said Nohealani Kaawa, whose family has lived in Kau for generations. The people of Kau are deeply connected to the land; certain places mentioned in Kau and moolelo (stories) are named after the families.

It’s also a literal connection: many of their ancestors are buried where the golf course was first built.

“On a personal level, for me, our ancestors are buried there in Punaluu,” Kaawa said. “No matter where they build their development plan, they are going to uproot the bones of our ancestors and that is the greatest disrespect you can show to Hawaii’s kanaka maoli (indigenous Hawaiian people) by destroying their iwi kupuna (ancestral remains ) to expose. ) to the sun. That kind of disrespect is as real as being physically attacked or having someone spit directly in your face.”

In addition to cultural concerns, the community has stated that there are also environmental issues and that the analysis used by Black Sand Beach LLC for its development plans is decades old and outdated, and does not take into account issues such as overtourism.

The development would impact hawksbill turtle nesting, Phillips said, and the area already suffers from a failing wastewater system that leaks into the ocean and has yet to be repaired. “They haven’t even encountered the kuleana (responsibility) that they already have,” Phillips said.

Black Sand Beach LLC said its development is the “smallest footprint necessary” to bring money into the local economy and “responsibly care for these lands.” The company said the development will be built at least one-fifth of a mile away from the shoreline and all commercial activities and parking will be moved away from the beach to protect the turtles. Plans also include the restoration of native fishponds and native vegetation.

The community is torn over the new development. Some residents support the development, saying it will help create “much-needed” jobs and “rejuvenate” Kau.

“It was really sad to see,” Kaawa said. “It’s not just the community they’re dividing, it’s families.”

Kathleen Wong is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Hawaii. You can reach her at [email protected].