Aloha ‘āina efforts and honoring our aliʻi wahine
By Shane M. Sinenci
Our community has been shaken from the devastating fires over these past few days. My colleagues and I are profoundly saddened to see the loss of life and displacement of our residents, who were forced to flee their homes, businesses, and land. The loss of lives, homes, belongings, family pets, businesses and the Lāhaina Harbor itself is heartbreaking. We will grieve for a long time. Historic Front Street will not be the same, and the Kula community will also experience lasting impacts.
In these difficult times, we must remember that we are resilient people. Our island community is closely knit, and our sense of responsibility for ‘ohana runs strong. Our first responders and volunteers are taking care of our community, and we are grateful for them. Throughout this hardship, our community has come together to assist those in need. People from the continent are also reaching out in support and showing their love for Maui.
It will take time and resources to move through this disaster and rebuild, but we will do it. Federal, state and county assistance is available. Online resources are available from Maui County (https://www.mauicounty.gov/) and the American Red Cross of Hawaii (https://www.redcross.org/local/hawaii.html)
We must learn from this and use it to improve our disaster preparation and response measures. Climate change is upon us, and its impacts require new responses and solutions. Just this year, the Disaster, Resilience, International Affairs and Planning Committee was established under West Maui Councilmember Tamara Paltin. As my committee focuses on social services, I am preparing to inform residents about available resources and recovery plans.
In our last election, we had started looking forward to prepare ourselves for the changing future. Efforts to responsibly manage local water resources and secure permanent access to water, resulted in a water authority charter amendment that was overwhelmingly approved by voters. Last month, member appointments were made to the East Maui Regional Community Board—the first board of its kind in Hawaiʻi.
The 11-member board is anticipated to begin meeting next month. Their first duties are to hire a director and comment on the state’s long-term watershed management plan for East Maui.
This plan is required by the state to ensure proper management of East Maui watersheds. Properly managing these watersheds could provide a healthy, productive ecosystem that generates water for farmers, residents and traditional and customary uses for generations to come.
Please watch for a notice of the East Maui Regional Community Board’s first meeting. Participants may attend online or in person to provide comments on this important plan and the mission of the water authority.
To ensure a future with food security for our people, voters in a previous election approved a charter amendment I introduced to create the first county department of agriculture in Hawaiʻi. The department just celebrated its first year, laying a foundation to support its mission to develop and manage a sustainable, regional agricultural system for Maui County and promote resident and ecosystem health, well-being and create a thriving circular agro-economic system that can be a model for the rest of the world.
The department focuses on workforce development, business education, agricultural advocacy and better policies to support farmers and assists with grant applications and funding. This funding resulted in 90% of all applicants receiving assistance, with 70% of those being small operations.
“E lauhoe mai nā waʻa; i ke kā, i ka hoe; i ka hoe, i ke kā; pae aku i ka ʻāina.” This ʻōlelo noʻeau reminds us that if everyone paddles together and takes on some of the kuleana, we can quickly accomplish our goals and reach our destination.
*Shane Sinenci is the chair of the Water Authority, Social Services and Parks Committee. He holds the county council seat for the East Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative and community matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.