Water rights key to successful ag operation

Water is the new oil — it is an extremely valuable commodity these days due to high demand and unpredictable weather conditions in many parts of the world. My guess is that what brought Mahi Pono to Maui was as much about the water rights that Mahi Pono received as it was about the land. Without reliable water, the land itself is worth way less. I would be extremely surprised if Mahi Pono were to give up any water rights. From a business perspective, they would be stupid to do so.

The Canadian retirement fund that is one of the partners in Mahi Pono is going to demand results. They are in this for the money in order to fund their pensions. Despite their statements about no plans to develop the land, their ace in the hole if agriculture does not work out is that development will. There is no way they will take a financial loss when they are sitting on a big development opportunity. So I would be surprised if they did anything that would diminish their ability to go to their ace card, development, by, for instance, putting non-ag land into an ag conservation.

Most of us don’t want to see Central Maui turned into a vast housing tract. I for one am hoping that ag is very successful for them but it is not certain it will be. But like it or not, water is going to be one key to whether this works out.

Scott Werden



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