One of the first things I noticed driving around the island were signs protesting different things. People had painted enough of them that I started wanting to know what was going on.
At first as an outsider I didn’t want to intrude but I noticed a petition in a cafe and discovered that people LOVE talking about what is going on around the island.
An older issue but the signs remain. Moloka’i Ranch of Maunaloa fame wanted to re-zone land at La’au Point for luxury homes. Not only is the area spiritually significant but residents were concerned about the environmental impact.
Moloka’i is not a commercialized island and when residents heard what was happening they took action and protested. According to some the environmental assessment was incorrect and so far the development has been rejected. There is so much momentum against this development I don’t think it will ever pass.
This was a confusing web to untangle as the signs made it look as if the community hadn’t agreed to it. But after some digging I learned the cruise ship was really a 34-person yacht that stop in Moloka’i and its visitors stay a few days to tour the island. At one point a protest stopped the people from disembarking the yacht but today it has been permitted as people have lost interest in protesting on site.
I guess you win some you lose some.
The residents are concerned there haven’t been adequate environmental assessments. But the biggest argument is that all of the energy will go to Oahu and there is no economic benefit for the island. They see it as a David vs. Goliath story as they battle big business and the government. This one seems to be gaining support as I have seen many signs and a website dedicated to it.
But what is most interesting is that Moloka’i has a high unemployment rate and many people need to take a ferry to Maui to work. Despite the promise of jobs that commercialization of the island would bring, the community has a strong desire to keep their lifestyle as is.
That doesn’t mean they don’t want tourists, they were all happy to see me. They just don’t want tourism to change their lifestyle.
Moloka’i is small and feisty – just like me.
Disclosure: Moloka’i Visitors Bureau hosted me during my visit, but all opinions remain my own. They did not ask for favourable reviews or that I take so many photos of the protest signs.