The time for Maui County to protect its future is now

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The Maui News

Jan. 25, 2020
COLUMNS: COUNCIL’S 3 MINUTES
SHANE M. SINENCI

It is with great excitement that we begin a new decade with perfect “2020 vision.” By adopting sustainable environmental practices and policies, we have a unique opportunity to benefit Maui County and, at the same time, incite positive change as we help lead by example for the rest of the world.

Our island community contributes a tiny carbon footprint in comparison to large industrial countries that produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, we are on the front lines when it comes to feeling the impacts of things like sea level rise and climate change.

We are already witnessing unprecedented climate catastrophes around the world, including fires here on Maui, in California, in Korea and elsewhere, including most recently the massive brush fires that have consumed more than 15 million acres and killed approximately 1 billion animals and 28 people in Australia. More frequent and more severe volcanic eruptions across the planet and super hurricanes are further testaments to our current global crisis.

To help address the impacts of climate change, the Maui County Council has now created the Climate Action and Resilience Committee. By working to reduce our carbon emissions, pursue the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative goal of 100 percent clean energy by the year 2045, and create policies that protect our natural resources, coastlines and special management areas, we can ensure a sustainable future for our children.

The County Council was established in 1905 when the Territorial Legislature overrode the governor’s veto to establish local county governments on all the islands. Since then, Maui County has exhibited home rule by electing its own council members. On the other hand, we have also experienced large outside investments and, in turn, large outside influence within our county.

As recent as October 2018, Blackstone Group, a private equity investment firm based in New York City, became the largest employer on Maui when they purchased The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, and the Grand Wailea Maui. After about two months, a joint venture composed of California-based Pomona Farming LLC and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board created the Mahi Pono company, which purchased 41,000 acres of the former Alexander & Baldwin sugar cane fields and a portion of the East Maui Irrigation system.

In addition, we are experiencing large numbers of out-of-state

homebuyers who are purchasing Maui real estate as personal investments, which adversely affects our affordable housing inventory. As beneficiaries of our own Hawai’i Employees’ Retirement System, which has assets of more than $17 billion, it is important that we invest in our own future and in companies that will invest in food security, energy management and fair labor practices.

To learn more about and engage with leaders of environmental care, social responsibility and good governance, on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, Maui County will host the first-ever Ahupua’a Investment Summit, a conference on sustainable investing. The event is free and you can find more information at www.mauiesgproject.org.

Historically, Maui has always been a center for strong local governance. Now more than ever, we must unite behind Aloha ‘Aina values that promote local home rule for generations to come.

Hawaii hosted over 10 million visitors last year, but it is up to us to look after our home. The time has come for us to become ambassadors of sustainable policies and practices to ensure a healthy, vibrant future for Maui County.

* Shane M. Sinenci is chairman of the council’s Environmental, Agricultural and Cultural Preservation Committee. He holds the council seat for the East Maui residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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