Hanauma Bay to be audited over repair backlog and improper budget accusations

Hanauma Bay to be audited over repair backlog and improper budget accusations
Published: Aug. 26, 2014 at 10:18 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 27, 2014 at 9:02 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 800,000 people visit Hanauma Bay a year and it brings in more than $6 million a year yet in some cases repairs haven't been made for eight years.

The idea was floated to turn the popular snorkeling spot into its own semi-autonomous agency so it can manage itself.  The Friends of Hanauma Bay group says the tourist attraction is self sustaining yet it can't get repairs made or even paper towels in the bathrooms.

The group's president also accuses the City of using money the park generates in other areas of the island.

"I'm not saying with 100 percent certainty because I don't have access to those numbers but certainly the outward appearance is such," said Sid McWhirter, Friends of Hanauma Bay President.

"Absolutely incorrect. The money that is raised their stays there. One it's illegal to spend it anywhere else and we don't spend it anywhere else. We keep it there, we invest in Hanauma Bay or we have it in our reserve," said Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu Mayor.

The resolution has called for a semi-autonomous agency to manage and operate Hanauma Bay. It would be similar to what is set up for the Board of Water Supply and the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART).  However the city says the park doesn't rise to that level of need.

"We're talking two other very giant organizations in HART and the Board of Water Supply, a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of staffing. We're talking about a crown jewel, a beautiful place (Hanauma Bay), but it really doesn't require that amount of bureaucracy to support it," said Mayor Caldwell.

"Hanauma Bay is totally self sufficient it needs no tax money so why are we being thrown in with everyone else who is scrambling for tax money and then we get lost in the bureaucracy of getting things repaired," said McWhirter.

The resolution was deferred.  However the city will do a full financial audit on the park.  It also says there is more than $4 million in the bay's reserve fund and it will spend it on maintenance issues.

"We have done better but there is always more to do and we want to get down to just making sure we have a better management system in place so these ongoing problems are corrected. Taking years to fix copper flashing is unacceptable," said Mayor Caldwell.

"I'm after this for one thing. I want a long term solution where we don't revisit this," said McWhirter.

The City says in 2013 Hanauma Bay generated $6,179,000 in revenue and accrued $6,090,000 in expenditures.

There was a total of $4.2 million in reserves from previous years.

The 2015 projections show the park will bring in $6,195,460 in revenue and $7.6 million in expenditures.

More meetings between both sides are set for September 10.

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