Telephone survey connected to Mahaulepu dairy

KOLOA — Ulupono Initiative is conducting a telephone survey about Kauai’s economy, and some say the company should be more upfront about its involvement with Hawaii Dairy Farms.

“They wanted to know what projects I knew about on the island that were helping people out,” said Koloa resident Larry Widhelm. “If I would have heard the word ‘dairy,’ I would have said ‘you’re talking to the wrong person.’”

Widhelm answered questions over the phone about Kauai’s economy around Aug. 20.

He read the Aug. 22 article in The Garden Island Newspaper referencing Ulupono Initiative and made the connection between the proposed dairy in Mahaulepu Valley and the company.

“That’s when I put two and two together,” Widhelm said.

Owned by Ebay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar, the venture capitol investment company Ulupono Initiative was the host of the survey.

Hawaii Dairy Farms, a 557-acre, 699-cow dairy farm proposed for Mahaulepu Valley, is one of Ulupono Initiative’s investments.

The proposed plan to build the dairy has drawn community concern, mostly about the dairy’s envionmental impacts.

It’s one of three projects ongoing on Kauai, according to their website; Omidyar has also invested about $120,000 into the Kauai School Garden Network with Malama Kauai, and more than $450,000 toward Malama Kauai’s other operations.

He’s investing about $17.5 million into Hawaii Dairy Farms, according to the Ulupono Initiative website.

The survey through Ulupono Initiative has been circulating for several months, and is a follow-up study to one completed a couple of years ago, according to Amy Hennessey, director of communications for Ulupono Initiative.

“It is not about any one project, but rather intended to provide insight into how people view Ulupono Initiative,” Hennessey said in a statement to TGI.

The current survey is directly related to how Ulupono’s work is affecting Kauai residents, she said.

Another goal is to “measure awareness of our work to improve the quality of life for island residents in the areas of locally produced food, renewable energy, waste reduction and freshwater management,” Hennessey said.

And while Ulupono Initiative representatives say the survey isn’t about any one project, Widhelm said the person conducting the survey wasn’t forthcoming with much information about the company, or the proposed dairy.

“I don’t know how they got my number, and what bugged me was that they weren’t upfront about what Ulupono is,” Widhelm said. “At no time did she mention the dairy. It was all about the economy.”

Surveys are periodically used to listen to communities and better assess needs, Hennessey said, and Ulupono Initiative periodically does market research to hear directly from residents.

“We appreciate those in the Kauai community who have responded to the survey and provided their candid feedback,” Hennessey said.

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