After heated debate, Land Board decides weekly Waikiki fireworks show will go on

Whether the show would go on was in doubt as the Land Board was questioned if the fireworks do too much damage to the environment.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 5:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The show will go on outside the Hilton Hawaiian Village.

The fireworks show, that is.

That was in some doubt about that Friday after the state Land Board questioned whether the fireworks do too much damage to the environment.

It turns out the environmental impact of fireworks is an international issue.

But the idea that the Land Board might block the Hilton Hawaiians fireworks show made a lot of people upset, including the niece of Duke Kahanamoku, Patty Kahanamoku Teruya.

“I don’t want it to go because now I have grandchildren,” she said. “So I take my grandchildren out to the beautiful Duke Kahanamoku beach and it’s a tradition.”

The fireworks have been a Friday night fixture for 30 years.

But last year, concerns about debris in the ocean and explosive emissions led the Land Board to order the fireworks company to come up with a clear plan for dealing with environmental impact.

They were also directed to look at alternatives to pyrotechnics, like drones or light shows.

Land Board Member Wesley “Kaiwi” Yoon was among those most concerned about the impact of the fireworks, but Friday he congratulated the fireworks company for its efforts to reassure the board.

“This issue wasn’t about a kill joy effort from the board,” he said.

“It was about how do we best protect our culture and natural resources.”

Bruce Albrecht, operations manager of Hawaii Explosives and Pyrotechnics, described detailed plans for spotting and collecting debris, monitoring weather conditions and cancelling shows if necessary.

“We want to be good stewards and we want to be held accountable,” Albrecht said.

Albrecht said the experience had taught the company more about managing different impacts and seek products that generate less debris and smoke.

He said the entire fireworks industry is becoming more sensitive to the environmental issues.

“The work we are doing here, I hope to evangelize that out to the rest of my industry who may not be approaching these issues yet, but I tell you it’s coming,” Albrecht said.

James Souza, a leader of the American Pyrotechnic Association, said those conversations recently dominated an international conference in Malta.

“What happens in Hawaii is going to affect Sydney, it’s going to affect London, it’s going to affect everywhere in the world and that was the main topic in Malta,” Souza said.

Other Land Board members also said they appreciated the company for its progress and voted unanimously to allow a year of Friday night shows, but also said the discussion was not over.