Open space a priceless investment

The Maui County Council made what I believe was the right decision at its Jan. 10 meeting to approve the administration’s request to purchase 186 acres of land located at Launiupoko for $13 million.

The cost, the various appraisals, the value, procedures and adherence to the community plans all came under close scrutiny by both Budget Committee Chairman Mike White and the entire council as plans to purchase were being discussed. I commend White in his determination to monitor the taxpayers’ money and for presenting other options for the council to consider. In the final analysis, the community supported the purchase and the council concurred.

I strongly supported the purchase from the get-go, but agreed that new appraisals should be done as well as a complete review of the facts for decision-making purposes. Myself and other members of the council went over both the pros and cons of such an investment and, while it was a long journey, I am very pleased that we were able to save this priceless slice of Maui’s coastline from development and someday put it into use as a park.

While development of the park space is way down the road, the purchase of the 186 acres was a step in the right direction. We have lost other pristine properties such as North Beach and Olowalu in the past and we cannot afford to drag our heels when opportunities to obtain these one-of-a-kind lands become available. Paying more for less is not an option and losing properties such as these would be detrimental to our community.

It was very gratifying to have played a role in the approval of Launiupoko and other purchases, such as the 64 acres at Ka’ehu Bay in Paukukalo for $996,000. Ka’ehu Bay includes 4,500 feet of shoreline and a large collection of wetlands, fish ponds and numerous Hawaiian cultural sites. In addition, I worked side by side with the landowners, state representatives and Gov. Neil Abercrombie for the appropriation for HB 1464 to purchase Lipoa Point, which is included in the 280 coastal acres from Honolua Valley to Honokohau for $20 million, preserving the scenic point overlooking one of Maui’s most famous surfing spots.

I applaud and thank everyone who participated with the approval process. I believe we made the right decision for the right reason – to keep Maui truly no ka oi.

* Council Member Michael P. Victorino holds the Wailuku residency seat on the Maui County Council.