Maui Island Plan Vote on Lipoa Point/Honolua Bay

At the General Plan Committee meeting of August 2, 2012 I, along with Councilmember Gladys Baisa, Danny Mateo, Michael Victorino and Joseph Pontanilla, voted to maintain the agricultural designation of approximately 139 acres out of 270 acres owned by Maui Land and Pineapple Company, Inc. (“ML&P”) from Honolua Stream to Honokohau Stream.  Approximately 131 acres, including all the immediate coastline and Honolua Bay area, remain as “Preservation” on the proposed Island Plan and were not modified.

Much of my decision was based upon the fact that ML&P has been required by the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (“PBGC”) since October 2011 to post collateral to insure their $18.7 million of unfunded retirement liability.  In lieu of cash, the land collateral requested by the PBGC was $39 million.

ML&P’s only land that is not already collateralized to its banks and has the value to meet their requirement are the Lipoa lands and mauka lands north of Honolua.  The time frame for the collateral is five years and if ML&P is current on pension obligations, the collateral is released. 

If all of the 270 acres of land were left in “Preservation”, the market value would dramatically decrease and effectively force ML&P into default with PBGC.  Once in default, many pensioners may lose the value of their retirement benefits.  A recent study showed that the average decrease in a retirement plan that has defaulted to the PBGC would be over 28%.

I want to ensure that the more than 1,600 retirees who worked hard, many of them doing hard labor, are able to support their families and live out their golden years with the full benefits they have earned. 

I continue to be in favor of acquiring sensitive lands through the County’s Open Space, Natural Resources, Cultural Resources and Scenic Preservation Fund.  I have recently supported projects such as the acquisition of Giggle Hill, Pali to Puamana and Lipoa Point. 

Since 2007, the Council has made a budget provision of $1 million as seed money for the purpose of acquiring 277 acres surrounding Lipoa Point.  When the provision was first put in the budget by Councilmembers Joanne Johnson and Michelle Anderson, Councilmember Anderson stated in advocating for the funds, “It is not for the County to acquire it [Lipoa Point].  It’s [the funds] to empower this citizen’s group to go out and do the job.  And that’s why I want us to do a proviso so that they know we’re willing to them a million dollars as seed money so they can go out and multiply that tenfold…” 

I believe the protection of Lipoa Point must be a community effort, which includes raising private donations to fairly acquire the property for future generations.  However, we must do it in a manner that is reasonable to land owners and without impacting the lives of thousands of our kupuna.

In closing, our recent decision leaves the previously designated agricultural lands at their current designation.  No growth area was added and no development is currently under consideration.

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