THE ALLIANCE OF MAUI COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS (Alliance), which first met back in 2012, continues its monthly meetings covering a wide spectrum of topics and issues. Yesterday evening examined a huge island wide issue, the future of almost 60,000 acres of land purchased from A & B (mostly former sugar cane plantation fields and East Maui watershed lands) by the newly formed Mahi Pono. Mahi Pono is represented on Maui by former Lt Governor Shan Tsutsui as Vice President of Operations. A&B?s total holdings on Maui before the sale were 65,700 acres.
Also representing this company were Ryan Paton, Sean Lester, Tiare Lawrence and a wahine introduced as Diana.
As (almost) always the meeting commenced at 6:00 PM at the Kaunoa Senior Center. The frequent participating associations for Kihei, Kula and Haiku were present, but also Makawao, Hana, Pukalani, Waihe’e as well as several individuals from Wailuku and other regions.
As always the meeting was moderated and arranged by the ever energetic Dick Mayer.
Shan said he was approached about 7 months ago by an Oahu law firm that asked him to do due diligence on what would become Mahi Pono. They talked about modern history, recent events, plantation life, native Hawaiian cultural values. There was an extreme willingness, uncommonly seen, to recognize they are the outsider and they want to do it right. He also said A&B had a number of potential suitors for the ag land.
Mahi Pono is committed, according to Shan, to doing only farming, protected in perpetuity, and no GMO crops. They want to help and not compete with small local farmers, among other ways by providing a fruit dehydration plant.
Ryan said that the parent company Trinitas got into farming after being approached by investors wanting to diversify into natural resources. Its subsidiary Pomona Farms is now a major almond producer in California and has been diversifying the last two years in California as well as in Australia and Brazil, supported by the large Canadian pension fund PSP. As for Maui, they do not have crop plans yet but will soon. He said the intent is to own the land long term and not to sell.
The next Alliance meeting is set for Monday, February 25, 2019.