WAILUKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A native Hawaiian group is suing a Maui county official over sand mining between Kahului and Wailuku.
The Department of Public Works director is under scrutiny for extending a grading permit for Maui Lani Partners' sand mining operations.
The attorney representing Malama Kakanilua, the group that filed the lawsuit, says the one year renewal was approved without review from the State Historic Preservation Division.
"The problem with allowing this extension is that it essentially creates a huge loophole that allows this developer to continue doing what it wants to do, regardless of what the people of Maui and native Hawaiians on Maui want to happen," said attorney Lance Collins.
Furthermore, members of the group say the County issued the permit and approved subdivision plans before the enactment of a six-month sand mining moratorium, which was passed by the county council in January.
Permits issued to Maui Lani Partners, however, were exempt. Malama Kakanilua members say this essentially allows them to demolish the last known burial and battle site that contains countless Iwi Kupuna (ancestral bones).
"There is a tremendous concentration of burials," said Collins.
Malama Kakanilua aims to stop further destruction of Maui's unique sand dunes, where Iwi Kupuna are buried.
Collins said Maui Lani Partners has been mining and grading the area between Kahalui and Wailuku since 2015, but work stopped in January when the moratorium was enacted while sand resources are studied and inventoried.
Opponents of the work are upset the county gave Maui Lani a one year permit extension, despite having violated its archaeological monitoring plan.
The county has previously said it isn't aware of any violations.
"We are asking the environmental court to determine that the director essentially acted outside of his authority by granting the extension," Collins said. "The county council and people of Maui have spoken and the courts have spoken and we hope at some point this madness will end."
While the world faces a global sand shortage, it is a necessary component in cement and the making of concrete.
Collins says sand that is mined in Maui is shipped interisland and internationally where it is used for construction projects.
The county of Maui said it cannot comment on pending litigation.