POSTED: 3 AUGUST 2005 - 8:00am HST
Hawaiians want cultural preserve in Poipu

Rupert Rowe, James Kimokeo and Billy Kaohelauli‘i
at Poipu preservation site

by Lester Chang published on 3 August 2005 in The Garden Island

With plans for a 10-acre Hawaiian cultural preserve, Rupert Rowe, Billy Kaohelauli‘i, James Kimokeo, all Kanaka Maoli, the indigenous people of Hawai‘i, and non-Hawaiians, have come out swinging against a proposal to build two homes on leased lands owned by Knudsen Trust family members.

If they have their wish, the project would be the first of its kind in South Kaua‘i, and would help perpetuate the Hawaiian culture.

"It will protect the past, protect the culture for the future," Rowe told The Garden Island. "It really is needed, today."

The 10-acre site, if created, would run mauka from Brennecke's Beach Broiler restaurant to Po‘ipu Road.

Although Avery Youn, a Kaua‘i architect and representative for the Knudsen Trust, believes otherwise, and cites private-property development rights, the Kanaka say the 1.2-acre Knudsen land slated for residential development contains major historical sites.

Therefore, they reason, no development should occur on that parcel, or an adjoining, eight-acre parcel owned by Kaua‘i County.

The critics feel justified in their stand because they feel the property is unique in Hawai‘i: it contains remnants of a Hawaiian village that was home to 30,000 Kanaka, the only intact makahiki sporting arena in the state, remnants of home sites for ali‘i, and a rock wall that runs for miles from the ocean.

But the drive to develop the preserve opens the way for a confrontation between the Kanaka and property owners who own land on which the preserve is planned.
"We are in this for the long haul," said Terrie Hayes, Kaohelauli‘i's girlfriend. "You don't have to be a Kanaka to want to preserve cultural, archeological and historical sites," said Hayes, who is not Kanaka nor Native Hawaiian.

The impetus for the preserve idea came after leaders of the Knudsen Trust and Sinclair Bill applied for permits from county officials to build a house and ‘ohana house (additional dwelling unit, or ADU) on a 1.2-acre parcel located behind Brennecke's Beach Broiler restaurant.

The parcel is designated by county leaders as an open-zone district, and is owned by the Knudsen interests. Bob French, the owner of Brennecke's Beach Broiler restaurant, is a lessee who wants to build the two structures.

Kaua‘i County Planning Commission members held a public hearing on the proposal last month, and are poised to act on the permit requests soon.

During the meeting, county officials disclosed French had unpermitted grubbing and grading done within the 1.2-acre parcel, and on adjoining county land. French had submitted "retroactive" plans, and was ultimately required to pay $2,000 for an after-the-fact permit.

But Rowe, Hayes and others said because of the un-permitted work, no work should be done on the project site, and that the parcel should be included in the proposed cultural preserve. "The $2,000 fine is a slap on the wrist, nothing more," Rowe said.

As compensation for the un-permitted grubbing, Rowe and others demanded the county take the commercial permits French has to run the Nukumoi Surf Company business next to Brennecke's Beach Broiler.

That may not be a possibility, as the permit process for that project would most likely be separate from the current request for permits for the homes that are planned to be built.

Youn said, as far as he knew, most of the illegal grading had occurred on county property, not Knudsen property.

Youn said the area where the two houses are proposed will not destroy or encroach on historic sites, and that the Knudsen-family heirs, if need be, will protect a rock formation found within the 1.2 acres.

Kaohelauli‘i said protection of the entire 10 acres is important, as the land has special meaning to him. His home is located near the edge of the proposed preserve, and every chance he gets to visit historic sites there, he says he makes a pilgrimage to his past, and that of his ancestors.

On the edge of his property is located what he and others say is the only intact makahiki (Hawaiian sporting games similar to Olympics) sporting arena in Hawai‘i, encompassing about 1 1/2 acres and protected by a lava-rock border.
Rowe said the arena was used by the strongest of Hawaiian warriors, who came from faraway villages to do battle. Chiefs were seated in a special section to watch the action, while common folks sat in another area.

The rock wall boasted an elevated walkway, apparently to allow spectators to move around the arena and to get the best vantage points for athletic activities such as grappling, forearm wrestling, and activities stressing physical strength.

Before the combatants did battle, they most likely paid respect to Hawaiian gods, as evidenced by rock idols that were stabilized on elevated piles of lava rock, Rowe said. The rock idols distinguished themselves from other rocks because they were shaped like huge thumbs.

In and around the arena can be found remnants of a water well, a pig pen, five house sites, all apparently for use by the ali‘i (ruling chiefs).