Proposed Resort Development On The Big Island Of Hawaii Threatens Endangered Species & Cultural Practices

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a legal intervention opposing a proposed resort development on one of Hawaiʻi’s most renowned black sand beaches that would harm local residents and jeopardize threatened and endangered species, including green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals.

“The vibrant biodiversity and rich cultural history of Punaluʻu needs to be protected for generations to come, not developed for private interests,” said Maxx Phillips, Hawai‘i director and staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Hundreds of people have mobilized to protect this spectacular place and protest this reckless development. The community and wildlife of Punaluʻu deserve so much more and we’ll do everything possible to see they get it.”

If approved by Hawai‘i County’s Windward Planning Commission, Thursday’s action will allow the Center and local residents to formally challenge the 400-acre project site development in Punaluʻu, starting with the March 7th commission meeting. Developers want to build 225 residential and short-stay units, a commercial center, retail shops and a golf course that would harm local residents and Hawaiʻi’s native threatened and endangered species.

Nestled on the southeastern Kaʻū coast, Punaluʻu is celebrated for its breathtaking beauty, cultural significance, and unique ecological diversity. This coastal haven is home to rare and endangered native animals, including hawksbill sea turtles, green sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, native bees, and orange-black damselflies. Punaluʻu’s shores are vital nesting grounds for the sea turtles.

Developers are relying on an outdated environmental analysis and the permit application they filed with the county fails to consider harms to the local community. Increased traffic and a surge in visitors will compromise the residents’ quality of life and exacerbate existing challenges faced by Punaluʻu’s fragile ecosystem.

“There are many issues that need to be addressed before even thinking about approving the special management area use permit or considering any type of development at Punaluʻu,” said Nohea Kaʻawa, a local community member. “Our Kaʻū community is expressing concerns about the lack of a disaster mitigation plan. Emergencies like fire, floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruption have not been considered. There’s no burial treatment plan in place to protect our ancestors.”

“The sewage system is leaking into our ocean as we speak, yet the developer wants us to believe that there will be no impacts. This development will lead to overpopulation and a rise in land taxes so local people cannot stay. The decision makers have a big responsibility on their shoulders and with the proper steps taken beforehand, a disaster waiting to happen can be prevented,” continued Kaʻawa.

The legal challenge underscores the need for a thorough reevaluation of the potential environmental and cultural harms from the development. It aims to ensure that responsible and sustainable practices are adopted to protect the delicate balance of Punaluʻu’s ecosystem and the native species that depend on it to survive.

“This development goes against all the values of the Kaʻū Community Development Plan,” said Guy Enriques, president of Malama Pono Punaluʻu. “I strongly believe that the character of these developers will always put Kala (money) before the people and lands of Kaʻū. This development will put the place that we love and cherish in jeopardy.”

The Windward Planning Commission will hold a public meeting at 9 a.m. on March 7th at Hawai‘i County Council Chambers, 25 Aupuni St., Hilo, HI, 96720. People are encouraged to attend and submit testimony in person or via Zoom. The commission meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube.

“My beloved mother Pele Hanoa and sister Keolalani Hanoa worked tirelessly for many years to preserve Punalu’u,” said Elsa Kalanikauleleiaiwi Dedman, a direct descendant of Punaluʻu and a Center for Biological Diversity member. “The magic of Punaluʻu, the piko of Kaʻū, is home to some of the rarest animals in the world. I am one with my ancestors to protect the legacy of our cultural treasures on Hawaiʻi island’s longest undeveloped coastline.”

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

More on this topic

Popular stories

$50,000 Reward Offered For Information On Three Endangered Wolves Found Dead In Oregon

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is seeking information regarding the deaths of three endangered gray wolves east of Bly in southern Oregon....

Victory! Wild Mustangs Saved From Roundup At Theodore Roosevelt National Park In North Dakota

Photos by: In Defense of Animals Hopeful news as Senator John Hoeven announced that he has secured a commitment from the National Park Service (NPS)...

World Animal News TOP Stories Making Headlines

1. Heartbreaking News As 30 Lions Suffering In A Captive-Bred Lion Farm In South Africa Had To Be Euthanized After Devastating Wildfire & Severe...