Cultural site visit part of zoning change decision

The Hawai‘i State Land Use Commission conducted a site visitation in Po‘ipu yesterday in relation to a petition by the Eric A. Knudsen Trust to consider the reclassification of approximately 127.490 acres of land currently in the Agricultural District to the Urban District for residential, bicycle and pedestrian path and archaeological preserve uses.

LUC staff member Anthony Ching, at-large commissioner Michael Formby, Kaua‘i commissioner Thomas Contrades and Dr. Hallett Hammatt of Cultural Surveys Hawai‘i were joined by about 100 interested observers.

“We don’t want (the zoning change),” said Billy Kaohelaulii, kahu/guardian and member of Hui Malama O Kaneiolouma.

Kaohelaulii said the number of historical, cultural and sacred sites in the area have been reduced from over 70 to the current 17.

“We want to keep the sites . . . to put them back,” he said. “This is the ahupua‘a that belongs here.”

The visitation included the petition area, the project area associated with the petition area but not part of the LUC decision and a visit to an off-site heiau of significance.

The fear, Kaohelaulii said, is that the heiau and other important sites will be affected sooner or later.

“Everything up runs down,” Kaohelaulii said.

Ching told participants that the purpose of the site visit was to give commissioners an orientation to geographical, archaeological sites.

“It is an opportunity to see the grounds, see the sites and to gain an appreciation of the land we are talking about,”

Ching said.

Ching cautioned the crowd against engaging in “substantive conversations” with the commissioners and discussing the merits of the case.

Dr. Hammatt, the leader of the visitation who explained and identified the sites, told participants to expect rocky areas and cactus. He had done a “dry run” of the visitation that took three and a half hours.

Rupert Rowe, kahu/guardian, addressed the crowd and spoke of respect for the area.

Kehaulani Kekua, kumu hula of Halau Palaihiwa O Kaipuwai, presented traditional ceremonial prayer chants. She also offered mele komo, a chant asking for permission to enter the sites.

Kekua said she was invited by Don Cataluna of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the kupa/natives of the area like Ted Blake and by kahu Kaohelaulii and Rowe.

Kekua said that in 1959 Henry Kekahuna had mapped the entire Koloa field system. The current development proposal involves the last remaining section of the system.

“This last section possesses magnificent, unique ancient archaeological sites—archaic engineering, construction of irrigation channels, cultivation and habitation sites— that cannot be found anywhere else in Hawai‘i,” Kekua said. “This is a big deal.”

As the group disappeared into the brush, Kekua pointed out the native Hawaiian owl flying overhead.

“It is ho‘ailona,” she said. “It is a sign that our ancestors are watching.”

A hearing on the issue is scheduled for today, at 8:30 a.m. at the Hilton Kaua‘i Beach Resort.

• Cynthia Matsuoka is a freelance writer for The Garden Island and former principal of Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School. She can be reached by e-mail at aharju@kauaipubco.com.

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