DHHL to Address Piles of Abandoned Vehicles in PunaFebruary 8, 2020, 7:30 AM HST (Updated February 8, 2020, 7:39 AM)
A dumping ground of cars on Hawaiian Homestead lands in Puna has left residents frustrated and feeling unsafe.
On Friday, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands announced its investigation into several complaints of abandoned vehicles in Maku‘u. The news comes after a video was posted on Facebook of the piles of vehicles on Kaheakeola Street.
“The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is aware of the issue involving dozens of intentionally abandoned vehicles on Hawaiian Homestead lots in Makuʻu on Hawaiʻi Island,” DHHL officials state. “Upon receiving complaints in the latter part of 2019, the Department began an investigation into the situation.”
The video, filmed Thursday by Puna resident and community advocate Ikaika Marzo, showed various types of vehicles. Many of them were damaged or vandalized. Aside from the cars, the road was littered with trash.
“On the street alone, there’s over 50,” said Maku‘u resident Laua‘e Kekahuna said Friday.
Kekahuna, a member of the Maku‘u Farmer’s Association, said between the roadway and the two five-acre lots on the street, she counted about 500 cars. Abandoned vehicles on Hawaiian Homestead Lands has been a problem since the association’s existence in 1997, however the particular street highlighted in Marzo’s video has been an issue for about a year, she explained.
With Marzo’s video, Kekahuna said, they were trying to shed light on the larger problem. Maku‘u is home to over 40 lessees. There are over 50 unawares or vacant lots.
“It’s unsafe now,” she said. “There’s drug traffic all through the night. Druggies just working on cars, disturbing lessees. It’s dangerous for our lessees in the homestead.”
Kekahuna said Ken’s Towing has been cleaning up the area, “but every time we clean it up, there’s more cars that come in.”
“It would be nice for safety to be the priorities for our lessees in Hawaiian Homestead,” she said.
Kekahuna said the association has informed DHHL of the problem several times in the past through regular reports, but the organization had other priorities. Kekahuna thinks DHHL is now focusing attention on the abandoned vehicles because of Marzo’s video.
Unfortunately, she added, the issue is a bigger mess than what it could have been if it was addressed early on.
The investigation into the abandoned cars, DHHL stated, included an assessment by the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health, citation of several unpermitted structures, citation of the abandoned vehicles, and trespass notices given to unauthorized campers.
“An investigation into the homesteaders who hold leases for these lots was also initiated,” DHHL states. “The Department is taking steps to prevent any future dumping in the area.”
DHHL is collaborating with other state agencies and Hawaiʻi County to prepare a work plan for the removal of the unpermitted structures along with the removal and disposal of the vehicles. Homeless services providers are assisting with unauthorized campers in this area, and the Department is cooperating with law enforcement in an investigation of the intentionally abandoned vehicles.
Hawai‘i Police Capt. John Briski confirmed Friday that the police department is working with DHHL.
Briski said police met with DHHL when they came out to look at the area a couple of weeks ago.
“I really wish people would’ve called earlier,” he said. “It’s unfortunate they waited till it got to be such a problem.”
Briski there’s no excuse to abandon a vehicle since Hawai‘i County has put programs in place where residents can properly dispose of a car.
“The county has bent over backwards to address the problem,” he said.
The captain explained police can address abandoned vehicles on roadways or easements. But if it’s on private property, it becomes the owner’s responsibility to remove the vehicle.
Since graveyard of vehicles is on Hawaiian Homestead lands, Briski said, DHHL have the unique ability to handle the situation since they are able to go onto properties.
The public is encouraged to report any dumping, abandoned vehicles, or unauthorized campers on Hawaiian homelands to DHHL as soon as possible. Briski encourages homesteaders to call police as well at 808-935-3311.