WAIMANALO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A notorious pest is caught in the crosshairs, not of agriculture workers, but of a land dispute.
On Monday, a Circuit Court Judge denied the State Department of Agriculture's request for a temporary restraining order to keep occupants of a parcel in Waimanalo away, so it could continue treatments for little fire ants.
The State also claims it owns the land, as does the named defendant, the Komomua family.
"My understanding is everyone is just wants to determine the title issue. We can determine that title issue at a later date. Right now what we're concerned is, confining the little fire ants to the property" said Deputy Attorney General Andrew Goff. Goff argued in order to do so, construction on the site would need to be halted immediately, with all parties kept OFF the premises. The defendants, while supporting the eradication of the pests, claimed the maneuver was a ruse.
"It seemed the intent, the state to hide behind the department of agriculture to come and take our land because this invasive species issue" said Austin Laurenzo, the family spokesman.
Judge Gary Chang, who authorized an Agriculture team to enter on to the property over the weekend to inspect for little fire ants, was displeased to learn no action had been taken by the state.
Because the areas deemed to be infested have not been disturbed by the construction, the Judge said BOTH parties can continue their work on the land; the Department of Ag battling the pests, the family with construction.
"There is no necessity for this court to issue a restraining order" he ruled.
This is just the first salvo in what could be a lengthy court process, given the state's claims that the defendants do not own the property, are trespassing and building illegally. The family maintains its right to the land.
"They can continue saying what they want, but to disprove it is going to be the end of the day story, to disprove it" said Laurenzo.