• September 16, 2020 4:52 PM | Holly Cunningham (Administrator)

    Hawai‘i’s pre-travel COVID-19 testing program will launch on Oct. 15, Gov. David Ige announced in a press conference this afternoon. Tourism has all but halted across the state since late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The hope for this program is it will protect public health and revive the economy.

    “We’re committed to restoring and revitalizing the economy,” Ige said.

    Travelers will be exempt from the state’s 14-day quarantine if they return a negative result after submitting to a test 72 hours prior to arrival in Hawai‘i.

    Lt. Gov. Josh Green was present at the press conference through Zoom, as he is currently positive for COVID-19. He explained the state has worked for months on the pre-travel testing program.

    “It’s going to be another tool as a layer for safety for our residents and visitors,” Green said.

    Green said all arriving passengers, adults and children, will be required to take a test prior to their arrival in Hawai‘i. If the results are not available by the time they get to the state, Green said, those travelers will be required to quarantine until results are returned.

    The state is partnering with CVS and Kaiser Permanente to provide testing for mainland travelers. Green said visitors will be responsible for the cost of the test, which will be approximately $139.

    Ige added that part of the agreement with those partners is they will conduct a test and commit to returning a result in three days. The governor assured the state and its partners are working on establishing a procedure to verify the validity of a test.

    “As the world gets closer to a vaccine, we’re developing a strategy for delivering a vaccine to everyone in the community,” Green said. “It will not be mandatory.”

    The conversation on when to lift the 14-day inter-island quarantine is ongoing with a task force from each county.

  • September 10, 2020 9:54 AM | Holly Cunningham (Administrator)

    Lt. Gov. Josh Green said Wednesday that he does not see any reason the state could not reopen to trans-Pacific travelers on Oct. 1.

    “If we can get the numbers down to 70 (daily positive cases) consistently, that is something we can maintain in our hospitals, there is no reason we couldn’t open up to tourism and open our schools,” said Green, a Big Island physician, during a Honolulu Star-Advertiser Facebook livestream.

    The state Department of Health announced 100 new positive cases Wednesday, with 10 new cases on Hawaii Island and 90 on Oahu. Also reported Wednesday were three new coronavirus-related deaths on Oahu, bringing the death toll statewide to 91.

    Overall case numbers as of Wednesday were City and County of Honolulu, 9,146; Maui County, 360; Hawaii County, 533; and Kauai County, 58.

    According to Green, an average of 0.58% of people have tested positive during surge testing on Oahu, which is about 5-6 people per 1,000 tests.

    “The numbers are much better, but it is certainly a challenge,” Green said. “We reported 66 positive cases yesterday, although there was limited testing over the holiday weekend, and 100 cases today.”

    Green reported that active cases are tipping downward from 6,874 to 3,912, and spoke about hospital numbers as well.

    “We are now at 240 individuals in the hospital, down from a peak of about 315 or so. … We’ve been steadily declining and that’s usually a reflection of decrease in the overall disease burden in the state,” Green said.

    These are important things because Hawaii needs to reopen retail, restaurants and tourism, the lieutenant governor said, and “we’re on the precipice of that.”

    Green said a soft opening for tourism makes sense with two proposals for testing.

    Green is proposing a PCR test, which detects the virus’ genetic material, be required within three days of travel. If the tester receives a negative result, then they can travel from the mainland to Hawaii.

    His second proposal is to require an antigen test, which detects specific proteins on the surface of the virus, that can be taken on the mainland within three days of travel and again in Hawaii. The antigen tests are about $22 and provide a rapid result within 15 minutes.

    “This is what I believe will be the right plan,” Green said. “ … Given the case rates and the positivity rates, it’s pretty good.”

    The state should be able to reopen tourism in three weeks, followed by schools two weeks later.

    “As long as we’re giving enough access to tracing and testing for everybody, we can keep an eye on it,” Green said.

    “… We are watching every case by the minute … and it’s something that becomes more sophisticated every day,” he added. “Sooner or later we’re going to have to bite the bullet.”

    Green is also advocating for public schools to open for face-to-face learning on Oct. 13.

    Green said he will be proposing a plan that will allow eight locations for testing in each county. Children in school, teachers, first responders and other front-line workers can get same day tests.

    “This testing could provide a ton of extra support and it’s a doable thing,” Green said. “It’s better than waiting too long, because I’m not sure a vaccination will come in the fall or winter. If parents or teachers think it’s too much risk, then I understand that.”

    When asked if Hawaii’s infrastructure is ready for testing for tourism and schools, Green thinks the state will be ready.

    “We already have relationships in place with CVS, Kaiser and Walgreens is coming on, and when we finalize the decision to allow for rapid antigen testing anywhere as long as we do a follow-up, it opens up testing everywhere,” Green said. “It opens the scope and makes everything easier, which is what we need to do. We need to make plans accessible and not burdensome.”

    “I don’t think travelers coming in is going to be a big worry,” Green added. “I think it’s going to be continued community spread if we don’t do a good job testing people.”

    Last week, Gov. David Ige announced that Bruce Anderson, director of the state Department of Health, will be retiring Sept. 15. Dr. Libby Char will serve as interim director effective Sept. 16.

    The DOH revealed last Thursday that State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park will be taking a paid leave of absence as well. Deputy Director Danette Wong Tomiyasu, who is working with Dr. Emily Roberson, has been put in charge of all disease investigation and immunization activities.

    With the changing leadership at the DOH, Green is enthusiastic about the potential changes in contact tracing.

    “Going forward, Dr. Libby Char, who is a physician, is fantastic,” Green said. “She’s very subdued, extremely smart and she will provide good health leadership, so that’s a big plus.”

    Park’s departure clears the way for Roberson and her team. They have about 200 contact tracers and plan to bring on 125 new tracers in the next two to three weeks.

    The ultimate goal, according to Green, is for the case numbers to decrease and the amount of contact tracers to increase.

    “That is how you knock this virus out,” he said.

    Green said the stay-at-home order on Oahu, surge testing in all counties and the response to the spike in the virus has helped bring down active cases.

  • August 19, 2020 10:36 AM | Holly Cunningham (Administrator)

    By JOHN BURNETT and MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Wednesday, August 19, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

    Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a joint media conference Tuesday that new gathering-size restrictions imposed in response to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases apply only to Oahu.

    “I do want to make it clear that the neighbor islands continue in the ‘Act with Care’ phase of their reopening plans,” Ige said. “They have not seen the increased counts that we have seen here on Oahu.”

    In addition, Ige said a plan to allow travelers who arrive in the state with a negative COVID-19 test result issued within 72-hours of departure has been pushed back from Sept. 1 “until Oct. 1 at the earliest.”

    “We will continue to monitor the conditions here in Hawaii, as well as key markets on the mainland, to determine the appropriate start date of for the pre-travel testing program. We will be making that announcement in time so that the hospitality industry would have the time they need to staff up,” he said.

    Ige also said a moratorium on evictions of tenants who fail to pay rent will continue at least through September.

    Hawaii’s daily case count continues to be in the triple digits. Tuesday’s case count of 134 contains 124 new Oahu cases, seven in Maui County and three on Hawaii Island. Hawaii County Civil Defense reported 20 still-active cases and one hospitalization.

    Despite the low Big Island numbers, Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno expressed concern in his morning message, saying the island “has seen daily increases of positive cases over the past two weeks.”

    “Most of these recent cases are not travel-related, which means the virus is being transmitted within the community,” Magno said.

  • August 06, 2020 5:36 PM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    UPDATE: Thursday, Aug. 6, 5 p.m.

    Gov. David Ige announced the return of Hawai‘i’s interisland travel quarantine on Thursday, but a change has been made so that the quarantine will only be reinstated IN PART.

    Following his initial announcement and after further discussions with Attorney General Clare Connors, the governor has decided that he will approve the interisland travel quarantine only for travelers arriving on the counties of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i, Maui, and Kalawao. The quarantine requirement applies to any person traveling to these islands. This means travel from the Big Island to Maui, for instance, would still require the quarantine, as would travel from O‘ahu to any island. However, people traveling from outer islands to O‘ahu would not face quarantine on arrival. However, if they traveled back to a neighbor island before the quarantine is lifted, they would be forced to quarantine there.

    The period of self-quarantine will begin immediately upon arrival and last 14 days or the duration of the person’s stay on the island, whichever is shorter. 


    The Attorney General’s Office is finalizing an 11th emergency proclamation that Ige will sign before Tuesday, Aug. 11, when the quarantine will go into effect. Also after the news conference, the governor clarified that the interisland travel quarantine will remain in effect until at least Aug. 31 unless it is terminated or extended by a separate proclamation.

    The previous inter-island travel quarantine affecting all inter-island travelers took effect on Apr. 1 and was lifted on June 16.

    Main Story

    Hawai‘i took two big steps back in its battle with coronavirus on Thursday, as Gov. David Ige announced the reinstatement of the mandatory 14-day interisland quarantine along with a return to restrictions for the island of O‘ahu where the virus has become endemic.

    A total of 53 cases of the virus were reported Thursday, but Hawai‘i Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said officials expect at least 200 cases when a glitch in the Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system is worked out and reporting delays are erased. Anderson added that now, cases are spreading exponentially throughout the state.

    “The numbers keep growing, and we are concerned it will get worse before it gets better,” the governor said. “As we reopened our community, people let their guards down. It’s been very disappointing.”

    Interisland quarantine restrictions on travel will return Tuesday, Aug. 11.

    He added the quarantine is being reinitiated to stop what would otherwise be the likely spread of the virus in large numbers to neighbor islands, which have been much more successful than O‘ahu at limiting the reach of COVID-19. As of Thursday, the Big Island had reported 122 cases since testing began in late February. Honolulu County reported 51 more cases than Hawai‘i County’s pandemic total on Wednesday alone.

    “Interisland travel was an important way for families to keep in touch,” Ige said. “I wish this was not necessary, but the health and safety of our community is our top priority.”

    People traveling from neighbor islands to O‘ahu will be exempt from quarantine, including those traveling for medical purposes.

    Those planning interisland trips for any reason may look for updates on airport websites.

    The governor did not directly answer questions about what the reinstatement means for his pre-arrival testing program. That initiative is meant to bring trans-Pacific travelers back to the islands with an opportunity to earn quarantine exemption. Ige said an announcement will be coming within the next week as to the program’s status, which is currently set to go into effect on Sept. 1.

    Back to the Beginning

    Honolulu County will return to several prohibitive restrictions that characterized the statewide lockdown ordered by Gov. Ige in late March, though people will not be confined to their homes and some businesses will be allowed to remain open.

    For now, these restrictions remain isolated to O‘ahu, though worsening case counts on neighbor islands could bring about renewed restrictions of their own.

    Gov. David Ige. Courtesy photo.

    The primary initiative on O‘ahu is to limit large gatherings, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said, with a focus on stricter enforcement. He announced in a press conference Thursday an order that he called Act With Care, Do Not Gather.

    O‘ahu’s new restrictions will include the closure of 300 city and county parks, along with all state parks, and the beaches that front them. All campgrounds, botanical gardens, public and private pools, tennis clubs, and team sports have been closed or suspended. The restrictions go into effect on Friday, Aug. 7, and will extend through Sept. 5.

    People may still traverse the parks and beaches to get to the water and participate in activities like surfing, swimming, fishing, paddling, and diving, but activities on land will be prohibited. Restroom services will remain open, but no loitering will be allowed.

    Bars were already put under a three-week closure in Honolulu County starting Friday, July 31. Restaurants will be allowed to remain open, though cooks will be mandated to wear face coverings. Fitness centers will remain open but classes within them won’t be allowed. Movie theaters, spiritual services, and museums can remain open, but arcades, bowling alleys, and mini-golf courses will be forced to close.

    Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard said 160 extra police officers will be deployed under strategic enforcement initiatives and that warnings will no longer be the primary mode of enforcement. Instead, officers will write more citations and effect more arrests.

    An enforcement hotline in Honolulu County will open starting Sunday morning at 10 a.m. The intent is to garner community support in reporting violations to ultimately drive dangerous behavior down. The hotline number is 808-723-3900 and the relevant email address is

    While COVID-19 typically spreads more easily indoors, Caldwell said the focus is on large outdoor gatherings of dozens or even hundreds of people who have continued to ignore social distancing and face-covering mandates for weeks, leading to the surge in cases. It’s those events, he said, that DOH has linked with the majority of uncontrolled community spread on O‘ahu.

    As to what this means for public schools and universities across the island and the state, Gov. Ige was non-commital Thursday. He said he will sit down with the state Department of Education leadership, as well as University leadership, to determine the best way forward and hammer out the details to any change in plans. Public schools were originally scheduled to reopen Aug. 4, a date that was pushed back to Aug. 17 to allow for more training and preparation before a return to in-person instruction.

    Numbers Behind the Moves

    Anderson said two different predictive models indicate that if cases continue to rise as they have in recent days and weeks, intensive care unit (ICU) capacity on O‘ahu will be exhausted by either Aug. 19 or Aug. 21, respectively.

    PC: Google Images

    Currently, 117 people are hospitalized statewide as a result of COVID-19 infection. Of those, 115 are on O‘ahu. A total of 53% of the state’s ICU beds are filled, which will inevitably increase, Anderson said. Approximately 10% of Hawai’i cases of the virus result in hospitalization. Neighbor island projections are better than on O‘ahu, but hospital capacity is also far more fragile.

    Anderson said the consistency of coronavirus case reporting in the triple-digits each day for the last week has brought the state to the precipice of a public health crisis.

    “It’s much more serious than we projected,” Anderson said. “There will be more deaths and hospitalizations in the weeks to come.”

  • August 06, 2020 5:23 PM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By Stephanie Salmons Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

    Share this story

    • Visitors see how Halemaumau crater expanded during the 2018 reopening of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald/File Photos)

    • Tribune-Herald file photo Tourists take a selfie in front of Rainbow Falls in 2019 in Hilo.

    Ads by Kiosked

    Hawaii County last week released its five-year strategic tourism plan, a guiding document to help ensure responsible tourism that respects the Big Island’s communities and natural and cultural resources.

    The county gathered input from more than 400 representatives from the visitor industry, community, and public and private sectors while developing the plan, which “carries forward the idea that successful tourism starts with a high quality of life for residents … and sets it as the vision for the future of Hawaii Island.”


    The plan itself has four goals — responsible tourism, pono-based visitor communication, place-based education for residents and infrastructure — and each goal has a number of objectives and outlines actions to achieve those.

    For instance, for responsible tourism, the plan calls for the development of an inventory of cultural practices and natural resource areas, identifying those that are appropriate for visitors to access and the creation of plans to sustain those resources.

    It also calls for communities to retain their sense of place by integrating Native Hawaiian practitioners as leaders within the visitor industry; encouraging visitors and incentivizing companies to buy local goods and services by providing technical support for local businesses that want to promote or further develop their products and services in the visitor industry; and identifying and reducing barriers that prevent visitor industry companies from buying Hawaii Island products.

    The plan also proposes to develop ways for visitors to “authentically engage” and give back to the Big Island, while being accountable for their actions.

    To address place-based education for residents, the county should work to further develop training programs to share Hawaiian culture and history with those working within the visitor industry, according to the plan.

    Additionally, the plan recommends the development of a program that recognizes and rewards employees and volunteers within the visitor industry for acquiring greater knowledge of Hawaiian culture, history and pono practices.

    And among other actions, the plan also calls for the county to identify solutions for the lack of affordable workforce housing and to identify areas to address resident and visitor safety.

    Building on a previous plan, Hawaii County began its update more than a year ago, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which “dramatically changed the economy, especially the visitor industry.”

    Riley Saito, deputy director of the county Research and Development Department, said that before COVID-19, which has largely halted the influx of travelers to the state and Big Island, tourism was growing but put a lot of strain on the island’s natural resources.

    Saito said the new plan addresses pre-COVID concerns that the county needed to somehow change its relationship with tourists and how they interact with the community, the land and natural resources.

    Declining visitors and stay-at-home orders issued in the early days of the pandemic provided a glimpse of how resources can be revitalized with the absence of people.

    “… We do understand tourism is the economic engine for this island, and if we could, (we would) welcome the tourists and change their experience to be one of a higher interaction with the host culture and host people,” Saito said.

    The plan states that before COVID-19, the number of residents who completely agreed that tourism “brought more benefits than problems” dropped by 24% between 2010 and 2019, and there was a 5% increase in the number of residents who felt the island was being run for tourists at the expense of local people.

    In Hawaii County, the number of visitors in March 2020 declined 53% compared to March 2019, according to data provided in the plan. In April, the county recorded just 705 arrivals.

    According to the plan, COVID-19 disrupted positive forecasts for both visitor arrivals and expenditures, and current studies forecast a “dramatic decrease” in visitor arrivals next year, which “paints an uncertain picture of the industry’s future.”

    An estimated 3.4 million arrivals are expected across the state this year, but tourism isn’t expected to return to levels experienced in 2019 until 2025, and that’s only if several factors prove true.

    “This period presents many uncertainties around how the visitor industry will be redeveloped, however, it may also alleviate some of the negative sentiments from residents and create an opportunity to revisit how some experiences are delivered to visitors,” the plan states.

    According to the plan, the current decline in visitors allows for a more “responsible approach” to tourism, centering around place and residents.

    Saito said a slow return of tourism means the county will be able to better implement many elements of the strategic plan.

    “When you have a plan, if you’re doing it with the island at 80% occupancy, (it can) be very difficult to implement,” he said. “As tourism ramps up, it’s a slow growth. We can actually transform and pivot the plan as needed as the growth occurs.”

    Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, said the plan is “really predominantly on the side of managing tourism rather than marketing tourism.”

    According to Birch, the visitors bureau is looking at using the strategic plan to manage high levels of visitors, but post-COVID-19, the plan can be used to “bring back visitation properly and potentially create new jobs and new opportunities associated with visitation to the island.”

    According to Saito, the county already has started outreach to different community groups.


    For more information or to see the full plan, visit

    Email Stephanie Salmons at

  • August 04, 2020 11:57 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By John Burnett Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

    Gov. David Ige indicated Monday the Sept. 1 date to allow trans-Pacific air travel without a 14-day quarantine for visitors who get a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding a Hawaii-bound plane isn’t written in stone.

    “I’m aware that the hotels have said three- to four-weeks notice is what they would like to see, if not more,” Ige said during an afternoon press conference. “And the airlines would like at least two weeks notice if there is going to be any change. So I will be meeting with the mayors and talking about the current conditions.


    “Clearly, we would want to see a stopping of the increase in the numbers of new cases here in the state and, hopefully, begin the trend downward.”

    Ige said officials “continue to monitor the conditions here within the state, as well as around the country, and we’ll be making a further determination as we get closer to the Sept. 1 date.”

    Appearing before the House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness earlier in the day, Ige said the state is trying to build “as robust a testing network as we can.”

    “We are having discussions with all of the pharmacists and all of the testing entities across the country, as we know it is important,” he said.

    There were 207 new cases reported statewide Monday, including two on Hawaii Island.

    State Health Director Bruce Anderson said, however, that 114 of those cases are “a result of delayed testing results.”

    “Even so, 93 cases is a high number for Hawaii, and we’d like to see that number decrease,” Anderson said. “Our ability to open our schools, welcome college students here and, ultimately, invite visitors to come is going to be contingent upon our maintaining a healthy community.

    “I think the rising number of positive cases can be attributed primarily to the lack of physical distancing and letting down your guard.”

    Anderson said he went to several Oahu beaches over the weekend and “was amazed at the number of people on the beaches without face coverings who were not physically distancing.”

    “People were acting as though there wasn’t a COVID outbreak, a pandemic that we’re dealing with,” he said. “… We must accept the new reality, based on our investigations and the high number of sustained cases, the virus is widespread on Oahu.

    “It is fair to say COVID-19 is now endemic. It is entrenched in the community. There is no longer any easily identifiable sources of exposure, in many cases.”

    Anderson said he would be meeting with Honolulu officials to “see what more the city can do to address some of the issues that are being raised, associated with gatherings and so forth.”

    Earlier in the pandemic, positive test results in Hawaii would be 1% to 2%, but now positive returns are 5% or 6%, Anderson said.

    “Anytime it gets over 5%, there’s reason for concern,” he said. “Some of the states where they’re having large outbreaks have rates of over 10% and 12-15%. Obviously, we don’t want to be there.”

    Anderson said most test results on Oahu are available within 24 hours and within 48 hours on the neighbor islands.

    “Turnaround time is very important, because we don’t know a person’s positive until the test is completed. And that’s when we start our contract tracing,” he said. “So the longer the time it takes to get a test result back, the less effective our contract tracing is.”

    Hospitalization rates statewide remain low, and there is still a ready supply of acute- and intensive-care beds and ventilators, Anderson said.

    According to Anderson, one of the challenges faced by local health care officials is that about one-third of the cases involve Pacific Islanders, who make up only about 4-5% of the state’s population. He said that’s for “various reasons, largely due to socioeconomic status.”

    Anderson said the disproportionate number of coronavirus-related infections among Pacific Islanders is “not just here on Oahu, it’s on the neighbor islands, as well.”

    “We attribute that to cultural differences, people closer to each other,” he said. “Also, often, they’re working front line in the service industry. … They often have jobs where they can’t … work from home. So there’s a number of risk factors they have that others don’t. … Certainly, there’s no reason to think, otherwise, they’re more susceptible.”

    According to Anderson, another factor among Pacific Islanders is “distrust of government.”

    “Many of them have been wronged in the past. And I think there’s still a lot of concern about whether … to believe what government’s saying,” he said.

    He said outreach workers take interpreters into those communities, and added that inroads have been made by working through their leaders to help gain their trust.

    Those high numbers among Pacific Islanders don’t include Native Hawaiians, Anderson said.


    “Actually, Native Hawaiians … have a lower rate than you would expect, given their percentage of population here,” he said.

    Email John Burnett at

  • July 27, 2020 6:35 PM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    By HNN Staff | July 27, 2020 at 4:08 PM HST - Updated July 27 at 4:08 PM 

    HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Details are still being finalized on both sides, but Hawaii is among the international destinations Japan is considering allowing travel to and from in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Governor’s Office confirmed Hawaii was one of the 13 destinations that Japan has considered safe for its residents to resume travel to. 

    Other countries on the list include Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and Taiwan.  

    Travelers form Japan would have to pass safety and health requirements, like testing negative for coronavirus if they wanted to come to the islands. 

    Hawaii is the only U.S. state being considered. A timeline for the new guidelines to go into effect has not yet been set up. 

    Gov. Ige said in a statement, “Japan and Hawaii enjoy longstanding cultural ties and a deep-rooted friendship that has enriched the lives of many generations. It’s important that we restore travel between Japan and Hawaii and we see this program as a way to make this possible, while also preventing the further spread of infections from COVID-19.”  

    Meanwhile, Hawaii has yet to open up its shores to travelers without a 14-day quarantine mandate. The so-called restart of tourism was pushed back until at least early September.

  • July 27, 2020 4:55 PM | Holly Cunningham (Administrator)

    State Land Use Commission takes up Hawaii County’s STVR law

    By Nancy Cook Lauer West Hawaii Today | Monday, July 27, 2020, 12:05 a.m.

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    • Owners of this Kailua-Kona 5,0000-square-foot, $15,000 monthly short-term vacation rental on agricultural land is one of 20 asking the state Land Use Commission to rule their STVR an allowed use. (Map data: Google, DigitalGlobe/Special to West Hawaii Today)

    The question of whether Hawaii County can prohibit short-term vacation rentals on land classified as agriculture is now in the hands of the state Land Use Commission.

    Both the county and a group of 20 Kailua-Kona, Waimea and Captain Cook landowners have asked the LUC for a declaratory ruling. The commission considered the issue Thursday, then postponed the hearing until Aug. 12.

    The ruling will have far-reaching ramifications. Some 1.2 million acres on Hawaii Island — almost half of the land mass — is classified as agriculture.

    State law requires houses to be farm dwellings and have a connection to agriculture if they’re built on land classified under the state system as being in the agricultural district. The farm dwelling requirement took effect June 4, 1976, leading the county Planning Department to allow nonconforming use permits only for STVRs on lots created before that date.

    Farm dwellings are defined in state law as single-family dwellings located on and used in connection with a farm or where agricultural activity provides income to the family occupying the dwelling.

    “Farm dwellings may not be used as short-term vacation rentals,” Deputy Corporation Counsel John Mukai said. “Farm dwellings can only be used in connection with agricultural use and not for residential use.”

    The property owners disagree.

    “Contrary to the County’s understanding of Chapter 205, the laws governing the State Agricultural District do not regulate the length of rental agreements,” said Cal Chipchase, attorney for the property owners in filings. “Cutting through the doubletalk, County Ordinance No. 2018-114 allows anyone to rent a “farm dwelling” located in the State Agricultural District for residential or vacation purposes as long as the lease is for 31 days or more.”

    Chipchase points to testimony by county Planning Director Michael Yee that the county considers buildings built on agricultural land to be farm dwellings as long as the owner signs a farm dwelling agreement. There is little, if any, enforcement afterward to see if there is indeed any farming going on.

    Under grilling from two commissioners, Yee on Thursday tried to clarify the position. A farm dwelling, he said, is a permitted use on agricultural land, while an STVR is not.

    If someone signed a farm dwelling agreement and then doesn’t farm, “they’d be in violation and we may not find out five years down the road, 10 years down the road,” but farm dwellings are still a permitted use, Yee said.

    An STVR, on the other hand, isn’t a permitted use, Yee said, ”just as we wouldn’t necessarily allow a junkyard on that land.”

    Mary Alice Evans, director of the state Office of Planning, agreed with the county’s interpretation of the law.

    “Even if the county has not been effective in its enforcement of HRS § 205-4.5(a)(4), i.e., to identify and prosecute owners/operators of farm dwellings operating as STVRs, the law has always required that a farm dwelling be used in connection with a farm, and not for just residential uses or STVR uses,” Evans said in a July 17 filing. “The inability of the county to enforce these statutory provisions does not render the law invalid nor does it render the violators of the law in compliance or not subject to the law. … Accordingly, it is incumbent on the Commission to protect the Agricultural District by upholding the purpose and intent of the State Land Use Law by declaring that a STVR is not a permitted use of a farm dwelling in the Agricultural District.”

  • July 25, 2020 9:27 AM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)


    Wrong Data and Missteps May Further Delay Hawaii Travel

    Updating the situation on the ground here in Hawaii, including poorly interpreted data used to make critical decisions, and what may happen next in terms of both mainland travel and interisland travel.

    Mainland travel scheduled to reopen in September. But will it?

    We are doubtful at this time whether mainland travel will resume then. The plan, for months, from the governor, was to reopen travel with the requirement for testing 72 hours in advance. But then multiple things caused that plan to fall apart.

    Governor Ige said yesterday, “When we had announced the Aug. 1 date back in June… the number of cases was low, or at least stable and the virus was not out of control on the mainland… Subsequent to that, we’ve seen the explosion of cases… We will assess what the conditions are as we approach September 1 to make another decision about whether we are ready; and more importantly, whether the virus is contained in those markets that are most important to us here in Hawaii.”

    Hawaii lacked foresight and planning for testing. 

    The state did not plan to offer on-site testing on arrival, which was a critical adjunct to pre-travel testing necessary to assure travel could resume. They instead were said to rely exclusively on what appears to be a singular, failed, and never revealed agreement with CVS for testing.  Hawaii’s health director touted that agreement as our saving grace. It was anything but.

    As so many of you have pointed out in hundreds of comments, tests just aren’t consistently available for travelers on the basis Hawaii wanted. Some may be, yes, but again, this would need to be widely available from all mainland to Hawaii gateways. And that didn’t happen, and is not likely to happen anytime soon. Or at least not until the flareups on the mainland are under control. Timing there is anyone’s guess.

    Will interisland travel without quarantine come to an end too?

    There is a distinct possibility that interisland travel could stop again. The reason is the flareups in Honolulu and the possibility of those being transferred to the ill-prepared neighbor islands. As you know, until mid-June, Hawaii also had a quarantine on inter-island travel.

    Regarding interisland, the governor said, “We are looking at the entire situation… We are also looking at hospital capacity, the ability to test and get results back within 24 to 48 hours, and then contact tracing… and then our ability to respond. Looking at all of those factors, we do continue to believe that it’s safe to allow interisland travel here in the state.”

    Is poorly interpreted data leading the state to wrong conclusions?

    The governor based his judgment on per capita increases being the same on each island, which, they are not. He said, “We still see that the prevalence rate of the virus in each of the counties are very similar in terms of a per capita basis.” And that came while the Department of Health reported 55 new cases just yesterday, the highest to date, of which 50 were in Honolulu, 3 on the Big Island and 2 on Maui.

    Actual county by county population percentage, and active (not released) case percentage is below. This is according to data from the State Department of Health and the 2019 US census. It shows that Oahu has a far greater percentage of active cases, in relation to its population. The situation poses the greatest risk to those on the neighbor islands from interisland travel.

    Oahu: 69% of the state’s population. 92% of active cases.
    Maui: 12% of the state’s population. 5% of active cases.
    The Big Island: 14% of the state’s population. 3% of active cases.
    Kauai: 5% of the state’s population. Less than 1% of active cases.

  • July 23, 2020 1:55 PM | Cindy Wild (Administrator)

    2020 Council Candidate Interviews

    Each interview is approximately 20 minutes

    The candidates are listed in order of District

    Questions can be found here


    Ikaika Rodenhurst

    District 5


    Video Interview

    Jane Clement

    District 7


    Video Interview


    Rebecca Villegas

    District 7


    Video Interview

    Holeka Inaba

    District 8


    Video Interview


    Ranae Keane

    District 9


    Video Interview


    Tim Richards

    District 9


    Video Interview

    West Hawaii Association of REALTORS®
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