North Shore Residents Support Bills Preserving Hawaii Lands

HAWAII STATE CAPITOL (KHNL) -- "If we lose the beauty of our coastline, we lose what it means to live in Hawaii," said Elizabeth Reilly, a Hawaii Kai resident concerned about overdevelopment.

Oahu residents support a series of bills aimed to preserve our natural resources.

Keeping it "green." Governor Linda Lingle (R-Hawaii) started it, and Saturday Oahu's communities support her plan to buy undeveloped land at Turtle Bay Resort.

For three decades, the North Shore's motto has been, "Keep the Country, Country."  With the governor and now lawmakers' support, folks there may get their wish.

The Turtle Bay Resort in Kahuku, Oahu, stands as the only major hotel complex on Oahu's North Shore.  Many folks who live there want to keep it that way.

"The urbanization of rural Oahu and rural counties all over the state must be stopped," said Margaret Primacio, a Kahuku resident.

They say the people of Hawaii must ask themselves some key questions.

"Does the community want to urbanize the north shore?" asked Gil Riviere, a Waialua resident.  "Do we want 3,500 more resort units on the North Shore? How will that affect the island?  How will that affect the infrastructure?

Some worry the North Shore could turn into Waikiki.

"I believe we have close to five million visitors visiting Oahu annually and I believe the vast majority are getting in their cars and coming over to the North Shore," said Mark Cunningham, a Kawela Bay resident.

And they say, it's causing a strain on their infrastructure.

"Our roads are eroding to the shoreline there and we certainly don't want to be extending any roads or widening any roads because then we would be taking way people's homes," said Primacio.

That's why they're happy Governor Lingle wants to buy undeveloped land at the Turtle Bay Resort to help preserve the region.  It has become a senate bill, backed by Senator Clayton Hee (D-Hawaii), the chair of the Committee on Water and Land.

"Clearly a policy signals that government needed to become more involved to save open spaces," he said.

While North Shore residents are against overdevelopment, they say are in favor of tourism.

"We welcome that, and by urbanizing the rural areas, you'd kill the golden goose there," said Primacio.

As Hawaii lawmakers look at bills that address our limited natural resources, they say addressing the effects of global warming must be a priority.

"But clearly, stemming the tide is part of the agenda," said Sen. Hee.  "Not only for the Hawaii legislature but for the other 49 legislatures as well as the federal government."

No decision was made on that Turtle Bay bill Saturday.  The senate committee on water and land plans to recommend the bill be moved forward Tuesday afternoon.

It also has a provision in the bill that would allow the state to buy condemned land at a future date if things are not finalized this session.

Governor Lingle has no specific plans for that 850-acre undeveloped Turtle Bay property, which includes five miles of coastline.

She plans to ask community members what they want to do with it.   She said those who have a vested interest in the outcome should be able to give their input.

"The governor really feels that this shouldn't be her plan for the Turtle Bay area," said Linda Smith, the governor's senior policy advisor.  "It really should be the community's plan and she's going to go out to the North Shore on the fourth of March, meeting with the community, listening to them, about their ideas and their suggestions how this very unique and significant area should move forward.

That "Talk Story" session with the governor will be held at Kahuku High School, Tuesday, March 4 at 6:30 pm.

The governor hopes to continue the dialogue and get feedback directly from North Shore residents.

Senators Hee and Robert Bunda chair the committee that heard three other senate bills Saturday.  A bill relating to land acquisition would appropriate funds to buy a piece of land owned by the George Galbraith estate at Wahiawa.

Another bill looks at buying legacy land at Ka 'Iwi coast using land conservation funds.  A third one involves the acquisition of the Coco Palms Resort and turning it into a public historical park to preserve native Hawaiian culture.