Council members approved several amendments to a bill that would allow agricultural tourism on ag land, including one that would prohibit such tourist activities in Waipio Valley.
“The negative impacts of allowing large-scale tourism — the detriment is huge and sets up conflict,” Waipio taro farmer Jim Kane said. “We’re just setting ourselves up for a dangerous situation.”
Taro farmers took those concerns to Council Chairman Dominic Yagong, who introduced the amendment exempting areas of the island which can only be accessed with four-wheel-drive vehicles.
That includes Waipio.
South Kona Councilwoman Brenda Ford introduced the bulk of the amendments to Bill 266, which has generated significant testimony at several recent council meetings.
Her requests that the Planning Department give plan approval and perform a site visit before a farmer, for example, can begin offering ag tourism activities, passed. Her attempts to limit the size of the building in which ag products can be sold, to set a minimum amount of sales that must come from selling ag products, not value-added ones and to limit the number of visitors to no more than 80 per day failed.
Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann spoke out against several of the amendments, including the one limiting visitors to 80 per day, although he said he also didn’t necessarily support allowing 30,000 visitors annually,
WAIKAPU -Taro farmers and environmentalists said Friday that they would appeal a decision by the state Commission on Water Resource Management that ordered just a fraction of the water they hoped to see restored to the Na Wai Eha streams.
Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake, who represented the groups that petitioned for greater stream flow, said legal precedent, the state water code and the Hawaii Constitution were on their side. He said he hoped the 6-year-old case would be resolved in their favor within another two to three years.
"The bottom line is we waited six years to get to this point, and I guarantee it will not take that long to get this resolved in the court system," Moriwake said. "If the law means anything, the court will find that the commission did not follow its public trust responsibilities in this case."
The water commission on Thursday ordered that a minimum of 12.5 million gallons of water per day be allowed to flow in Na Wai Eha streams, about a third of the amount that had been proposed. The decision restored water to only two of the four streams – 10 mgd to the Waihee River, and 2.5 mgd for the Waiehu Stream. Diversions at the remaining Iao and Waikapu streams would remain at existing levels.