Renaissance of Waimea Valley Begins Today

HONOLULU: JANUARY 13, 2006 - After several tumultuous months, Mayor Mufi Hannemann has announced a settlement agreement which will preserve the entire 1,875-acre sacred ahupua'a of Waimea Valley intact. The court appointed mediator has facilitated a settlement agreement for $14 million that will keep the case from going to court on February 13, 2006 where the property's "fair market" value would have been decided by a trial by jury.

Parties to the settlement include the City & County of Honolulu -- who have already paid $5.1 million towards the settlement -- the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Hawai'i State Department of Land and Natural Resources, the National Audubon Society, and the U.S. Army (which has indicated a desire to maintain a "buffer zone" between the Valley and their adjoining property). Although not the settlement was not officially announced until 5:45 PM, Mayor Hannemann had called a highly-unusual emergency meeting with the City Council at 11:00 AM this morning (Friday) where the offer was presented to the City Council for their approval.

Jim Case, attorney for the Stewards of Waimea Valley and one of Hawai'i's leading legal experts on land holding, said, "We have not yet had an opportunity to study the settlement agreement in detail. However, we are very happy if the Council has sustained its earlier position, which it took clearly in the unanimous vote on December 7 -- that Waimea Valley will remain whole, as a complete traditional Hawaiian ahupua'a. That means an ownership regime of government or non-profit organizations that is committed to the long-term unity of the Valley, with no subdivisions or entanglements -- commercial or residential. After we have studied the details of the settlement agreement, we may have further comment."

Michael North, President of the Stewards of Waimea, commented, "Today, one of the great treasures of the Islands -- a living ahupua'a, a connection to Hawaii's proud past and to our future -- has been saved from development. It is a day to rejoice for everyone involved in this settlement. All have shown leadership, vision and commitment to reach this initial result, and should be justly proud."

He added, "This is only the first stage of Waimea's renaissance, however -- much remains to be done to bring forward native Hawaiian leadership in the Valley, to build a world-class biological and botanical institute, to make Waimea Valley a center for arts, culture and community for all of O'ahu and our visitors from around the world. The Stewards of Waimea is committed to supporting that vital process, for the long term."

One step in a long journey: Local Hawaiian leaders have endured a long, painful process since 2000, during which their beloved Valley home was threatened by all-terrain vehicles, gondola rides, billionaire mansions and literally being split in two. Here they gather at one of the positive milestones, in June 2003, when the Audubon Society officially took over management of the Valley from private hands. Left to right: Auntie Kanani, Auntie Kaula, Auntie Betty Jenkins.

Scott Foster, Communications Director for the Stewards said, "This agreement marks a new beginning for Waimea Valley. The long saga begun in 2000 when East coast real estate speculator and developer Christian Wolffer put the sacred ahupua'a 'property' up for sale as a private residence is ended, and the real work can begin. Waimea Valley now has every chance of becoming the center of Hawaiian cultural on O`ahu that it should and could have been all along. We are truly thankful for this positive conclusion."

The nightmare that almost happened: a June, 2000 real estate listing, showing all of Waimea Valley for sale. The price, $19 million, was revised downward here from the original $25 million. To Hawaiians, this listing was like putting the Sistine Chapel up for sale. Click here for a closeup.
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