On Monday, Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green, a Democrat, announced that his administration is in the process of considering the acquisition of properties in Lahaina that were devastated by recent wildfires.
This devastating event has already caused 99 deaths and officials are concerned that this number could rise as only 25% of the burn area has been surveyed.
Local residents in Lahaina have experienced immense losses due to these fires, not only in terms of property but also with regard to their loved ones.
Unfortunately, these same residents must now contend with developers looking to benefit from their tragedy.
USA Today reported a particularly distressing account of Tammy Kaililaau, whose home of 20 years was reduced to ashes.
Less than a week after the catastrophic event, some residents of Kaililaau were warned via social media that developers might try to buy their land. Despite this warning, one resident, John Dimuro, received a Facebook message from someone in real estate.
This employee of Marriott in West Maui for over 40 years expressed his disdain towards large corporations or wealthy individuals buying up the land.
“The government should just say ‘no, you’re not allowed to develop,’” he said on Monday. “Say no, just flat out no.”
It is clear that local sentiment is against any development and it will be interesting to see if government officials will heed these warnings and act accordingly.
Governor Green vowed to “protect” the land from foreign buyers looking to exploit the situation, The Post Millenial reported.
Governor Green expressed his determination to prevent this tragedy from becoming a mere memory or a chance for foreign investors to capitalize on the misfortune of others.
“I’m already thinking of ways for the state to acquire that land so that we can put it into workforce housing, to put it back into families, or make it open spaces in perpetuity as a memorial to the people who were lost,” Green said.
“We want this to be something we remember after the pain passes as a magic place. Lahaina will rebuild. The tragedy right now is the loss of life. The buildings can be rebuilt over time, even the banyan tree may survive, but we don’t want this to become a clear space where then people from overseas just come and decide they’re gonna take it. The state will take it and preserve it first.”
In another press conference, Governor Green elaborated on the potential legal actions that are under consideration.
“So I’ve actually reached out to our Attorney General to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed,” he said.
“Moreover, I would caution people that it’s going to be a very long time before any growth or housing can be built. And so you will be pretty poorly informed if you try to steal land from our people and then build here. In discussions last night amongst colleagues of mine, people I trust, we’re hopeful to create a memorial for the people in the state of Hawaii in this site,” he added.
Trying to take land away from our people before we’ve had a chance to grieve and rebuilt is not pono, and we will not stand for it. pic.twitter.com/gZczd1oLTo
— Governor Josh Green (@GovJoshGreenMD) August 15, 2023