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Lahaina wildfire survivors, community leaders rallying on Opening Day of the legislature : Maui Now

January 17, 2024, 5:30 AM HST
* Updated January 17, 2:09 PM

Paele Kiakona, Lahaina Strong Advocacy and Communications Coordinator is slated to give the opening remarks as part of a Lahaina Strong rally at the Capitol during Opening Day of the state legislature. PC: FILE Nov. 10, 2023 Lahaina Strong

Lahaina Strong, a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting the recovery and resilience of Lahaina, will rally at the Hawaiʻi Capitol at 11:30 a.m. following the official opening of the state legislature.

The gathering will also follow the annual ‘Onipa‘a Peace March and Rally at ‘Iolani Palace, where Lahaina Strong organizer and leader Paele Kiakona is slated to give the opening remarks.

The House Majority Caucus, Hawaiʻi Senate Majority, and Governor Josh Green M.D. have all identified Maui wildfire recovery as a priority item.


“The public and community has also been told that ‘Lahaina would lead,’ and the community would decide how we recover and rebuild,” organizers said. “This rally will be to present the community’s clear demands and ensure that legislators have no excuse to not know what Lahaina’s vision for the future is.”

Organization leaders say they want to ensure that the voices of Lahaina are heard and prioritized in Maui fire recovery

“These are our Lahaina Strong demands and legislative priorities, not just for our own recovery and rebuilding, but for the restoration of all of Hawai‘i. The tragedy that unfolded following Aug. 8 has only shone a light on the crisis that already existed in Lahaina, Maui, and all of our pae ‘āina. We will go back to Lahaina, but we will not return to the way things were, we will return to something better,” organizers said in a news release.


The group’s demands include the following:

  1. House the people: “To Keep Lahaina Lands in Lahaina Hands, we must house our people and stop the forces pushing them away.”
    • Here’s how: “Convert vacation rentals and empty homes to long-term dignified housing for residents, ban vacation rentals outside of resort zones, establish rent control to prevent displacement and prevent rent gouges in disasters, invest in a Lahaina Land Trust controlled by the community, and build enough housing to meet demand, prioritizing kānaka maoli and other generational residents and families.” 
  2. Restore the wai (water): “The theft and redirection of Maui’s water since the plantation era, which has been carried on by tourism, luxury developers, and large landowners directly led to the fires. It is time to correct this historical wrong for the safety and wellbeing of all.”
    • Here’s how: “Redistribute water rights so that a supermajority go to the public trust and the community rather than the current 25% that is not controlled by large private owners, dedicate resources to the restoration of Moku‘ula and other wetlands and historical water flows across all Hawai‘i’s ahupua‘a, and legislate public access to recycled water and other non-potable sources for appropriate use to preserve our most precious resource.
  3. Heal the ʻāina (land): “It is time to restore our right relationship with the land.”
    • Here’s how: “Hold large landowners accountable for mitigating fire risk by restoring historical ecosystems through removal of invasive grasses and restoring native plants, invest in restoration of Malu‘ Ulu o Lele and other traditional designs for watershed preservation and restoration, and mandate the undergrounding of electric lines and a transition to energy sovereignty through community and rooftop solar.
  4. Transform the economy: “To heal Lahaina and all of Hawai‘i will take work, and the fires and other recent events have illustrated the dire need to diversify our economy to lessen our dependence on our toxic, dependent relationship with tourism and the military.”
    • Here’s how: “Invest in workforce development programs and a jobs corps that can directly employ local people, starting with fire survivors and others who lost their jobs or income due to the disaster, require community benefits agreements that prioritize local hire, high labor and environmental standards in all contracts related to recovery and rebuilding, and incentivize local small businesses to be the engines of regenerative tourism that truly benefits communities.
  5. End government corruption: “To ensure a Hawaiʻi that always puts local people first, during normal times and times of disaster, we need more public servants, and less servants of big money special interests.”
    • Here’s how: “Ban corporate contributions and provide for the full public financing of elections.
Paele Kiakona, Lahaina Strong advocacy and communications coordinator, speaks at a press conference on Nov. 10, 2023, to launch the “Fish-In for Dignified Housing” at Kāʻanapali Beach. PC: Lahaina Strong Hui

Source: Maui News

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