HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In 2012, the state Agribusiness Development Corp. paid $13 million for 1,200 acres of former Galbraith Estate lands in Wahiawa.
The idea behind the purchase, according to the state, was to preserve some of the most productive agricultural land in Hawaii and help make the state less dependent on imported food.
Nearly six years later, most of the property is still fallow. What's growing instead is an illegal junkyard that better resembles a bumper crop of derelict cars, trailers and rubble.
"That's just so illogical and irrational. It's a waste of taxpayer money because we spent a handsome amount for this land," said environmental activist Carroll Cox.
Drone video shot by Cox shows more than 70 cars lined up along a pathway though the fields, which are located across Kamehameha Highway from Camp Poamoho. More than double that amount lies hidden under trees and overgrowth.
"I think it's a problem statewide on all lands that are not occupied. We see this on (Department of Land and Natural Resources) land, we see this on (Department of Transportation) land," said state Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, (D) Wahiawa.
We approached the man who we're told is in charge of the scrap yard. He didn't want to answer questions on camera but did say the many of vehicles came from another highly visible illegal dump site on Kaukonahua Road, which is being cleaned up. He said he plans to remove the cars soon.
The state Agribusiness Development Corp., which owns the land, said it has been trying to get rid of the derelict cars and squatters for years.
The ADC tells Hawaii News Now that gates and other barriers that the agency has erected since 2012 have either been removed or destroyed.
But Cox blames the state for the problem. Since the land has been vacant for so long, it has attracted squatters and illegal dumping, he said.
Sources said the state has had trouble attracting tenants because the farm land doesn't have enough water. Irrigation water is available on just 500 of the 1,200 acres owned by the ADC.
The state agency said it is negotiating easements to deliver water on the remaining 700 acres. That deal is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.
Right now, ADC spends about $200,000 a year on security but it's mostly to secure its water pumps. Dela Cruz said lawmakers want to add $1 million to the agency's budget for security and to fight invasive species.
Other lawmakers favor charging a $10 fee for all cars shipped into Hawaii. The money would help pay for the disposal of derelict cars. But a bill proposing that died this session.
"We've gotta find a way to to get the abandoned and junked cars reprocessed, recycled and out of the state," said state Sen. Gil Riviere, (D) Waialua.
"There's a breakdown in the system."