As lava advances, Hawaiian homesteaders feel forgotten by government

Guy Kaniho.
Guy Kaniho.(Hawaii News Now)
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 5:35 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2022 at 6:39 PM HST

HILO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Officials are keeping a close eye on the Mauna Loa eruption and have repeated that no homes are in danger.

But Guy Kaniho, a Mauna Kea Hawaiian homesteader, says that is frustrating to hear.

“It upsets me because that’s not true. At first I was thinking, could it be that we don’t count? That we are insignificant? And I don’t want to raise the prejudice issue, but is it because we are Hawaiians?” Kaniho said.

Kaniho and his family have been stewards of Mauna Kea for generations. He says they are deeply concerned about their homes, properties and cattle as the lava advances.

SPECIAL SECTION: Mauna Loa Eruption

“If the lava continues, then eventually, if it reached the grasslands below us, a fire would ensue,” said Kaniho.

“Not only would the ranchland, ours, would be jeopardized, but the entire mountain of Mauna Kea.”

Kaniho and his brother have about 100 cattle on their properties. Their cousins have about 100 more.

There are a total of five separate properties in the family.

At a news conference Friday, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said they are aware of the family’s concerns.

“Those properties are actually on the slopes of Mauna Kea and are high above, or on the elevation enough that they would not be jeopardized by Mauna Loa flows,” Magno said.

Magno said there may be a chance that lava could encroach onto the rangeland and cause wildland fires.

“I know our fire department is in consultation with DHHL (Department of Hawaiian Home Lands) as far as them putting in fire breaks,” Magno said.

The Kaniho family says it’s not just about them, but protecting a mountain many consider sacred.

“All the time effort funds that people put into the habitat, the ecosystem, the watershed, if we’re not prepared, proactively prepared to fight this fire, forget about the lava flow, that’s not going to come up here. That’s common sense. The fact that matter is that once it hits the grasslands, we need to fight a fire,” he said.

Kaniho said officials with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands were up on his property on Friday getting it ready for firebreaks.

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