A bill for the state to acquire Lipoa Point from Maui Land & Pineapple Co. has passed the state House of Representatives and cleared first reading in the state Senate.
House Bill 1424 proposes to require the state, in consultation with the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust and with the approval of the Board of Land and Natural Resources, to pursue acquisition of Lipoa Point and to appropriate money for the full or partial purchase.
Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairman William Aila Jr. provided conditional support for the sale.
The DLNR "supports the intent of the measure, provided the appropriation does not negatively impact the priorities of the administration's biennium budget request," he said. "The department supports acquisition provided that the designated management program has the capacity to manage the property for its cultural and recreational values."
Otherwise, the measure has drawn unanimous favorable written testimony from dozens of Maui residents calling for the land to be preserved and protected from development as well as from Maui County Council Chairwoman Gladys Baisa and ML&P President and Chief Operating Officer Ryan Churchill.
Aila told members of the House Finance Committee last month that ML&P is a "willing seller," and that the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust is hiring an appraiser to do a full appraisal of the West Maui property.
Churchill said ML&P is "supportive" of the measure.
The landowner "has been working for many years with the community, including the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, Save Honolua Coalition and various government agencies in their efforts to acquire the coastal lands surrounding and north of Honolua Bay," he said.
Baisa said that since 2007 the council and mayor have consistently pledged $1 million for the public acquisition of the land, "but we cannot do it alone."
"We need partners from the state and federal government and from concerned community groups to ensure the preservation of Lipoa Point in perpetuity," she said in testimony as a council member.
The full council has not taken a position on the bill.
In a separate statement in support of passage of the bill, Baisa pointed out that the Lipoa Point land has been pledged as security for ML&P's pension fund.
"Passage of this measure will also ensure the safety of pension benefits for hundreds of Maui Land & Pine retirees," she said.
In written testimony, Save Honolua President Tamara Paltin said her organization was in full support of the measure.
Honolua Bay and Lipoa Point hold "tremendous resource value for the state of Hawaii," she said. "The value is in the open spaces and public access, which would be lost if this area was allowed to be developed."
The House bill was introduced by Maui Reps. Angus McKelvey, Mele Carroll, Kaniela Ing, Justin Woodson, Joe Souki and Kyle Yamashita. It was unopposed in votes in House committees.
Senate Bill 1372 has nearly identical language to House Bill 1424, although it was amended in committee to mandate DLNR to invite appropriate government agencies and nonprofit agencies to participate in helping to acquire and protect Lipoa Point through collaborative partnerships.
The measure, introduced by West and South Maui Sen. Roz Baker, was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Feb. 15.
* Brian Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.