WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - For months, images of rocks being transported from Maui's Iao Valley and crushed at the county landfill as part of flood repairs infuriated Maui cultural leaders and others.
They felt the county didn't respect their concerns and didn't understand that they consider the rocks sacred.
On Tuesday, they finally got an apology.
"Yes, there were rocks that were crushed. It was unfortunate," said Maui County spokesman Rod Antone. "It was an oversight. We apologize, but we were moving quickly. There was no intention. It wasn't like, 'Hey, let's take these rocks and smash them up.'"
The county says while most rocks were returned to the valley as part of a $5 million repair project, some rocks were mixed in with tree debris, sent to the landfill and crushed. The county insists it was moving quickly under an emergency proclamation to keep residents safe.
Councilwoman Elle Cochran's office has been investigating the issue by talking to truckers, landfill workers and community members.
"We showed it to (Maui) Department of Environmental Management and Public Works and they were saying otherwise, but when the photos were shown, they were like that was there then, but this is what we are showing you now," Cochran said.
Autumn Ness, Cochran's executive assistant, said, "It's pretty clear that they are coming to their government with concerns that they are having and they are just being lied to."
When Hawaii News Now asked Antone if Maui County had been truthful about the situation, he said he felt hurt by the question.
He said the county stopped crushing the rocks when the community stepped forward.
"Then we were informed that rocks were over at the landfill and they were crushing them. And we did say, 'OK, Why don't you guys stop because that was not the original plan,'" he said.
Native Hawaiians consider Iao Valley sacred. It's the site of a famous battle between Kamehameha I of Hawaii island and Maui's chiefs.
"Their lives and blood are spilled on those rocks and continue to be there today," Cochran said. "Their iwi, their bones. To just haul off those rocks with this history attached to it for me as a kanaka is a desecration. It's an insult. It's disrespectful."