Big Island Polls

Poll results: It takes more than just one trait to be a responsible developer

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There are several recent examples of Hawai‘i residents, including Native Hawaiians, environmental organizations, homeowners associations and others, clashing with developers and real estate investors.

A proposed $350 million residential and commercial community development next to a famous and sacred black sand beach at Punalu‘u is now the subject of a contested case hearing.

Derelict building within the former Sea Mountain at Punalu‘u resort area that was destroyed in the 1975 tsunami. The former Sea Mountain property is the site of a proposed new development adjacent to the famous black sand beach in Kaʻū. (File photo courtesy of Christine Inserra)

A yearslong ‘nightmare’ fight against black slime continues for Kauaʻi homeowners at the 151-home Ho‘oluana at Kohea Lea development in Hanamāʻulu.

The developer rebuilding the Coco Palms Resort on Kaua’i, which was destroyed in 1992 by Hurricane Iniki, is experiencing pushback because of several issues, and the list goes on, extending to nearly every other island of the state.

Controversy about shady practices even found its way to survivors of the deadly Maui wildfires. Some said they were getting calls from real estate investors wanting to buy what remained of their homes and property.


So it begs the question: Is there such a thing as a responsible developer?

If you ask reader Joe Sixpac, the answer would probably be no: “Responsible Developer – oxymoron,” he commented on Big Island Now’s most recent poll.

The poll asked, “What is the most important trait of a responsible developer?”

There were several options to select from: providing sustainable and well-paying employment opportunities, paying attention to the land and being a good steward of it, understanding the needs of the community, being a part of or respecting the host culture, fitting the development into the community’s way of life, actively listening to concerns of the community and compromising when needed, protecting endangered plants and animals and knowing when to stop a project.


After all, not all developers and developments are bad, right?

They can help improve infrastructure such as water and electrical services, roads and fire protection and mitigation or even other amenities including beaches or farmers markets.

“Without developers, everyone would be living in caves,” commented reader Don Baker. “Not my idea of ‘living.'”

A majority of those who voted in the poll, 62%, or 574 votes, said all of the above. They don’t think it’s just one of those qualities that is the most important for a responsible developer to have, but all of them combined.


On the flip side, 5%, or 48 votes, went to none of the above.

Reader anika loki offered a block of text as to how developments should be approached.

“Fight, oppose, present archeological & environmental restrictions, adverse pollution per golf course using non-native turf, ornamental non-native decorative foliage for resorts (not drought resistant) abuse of infrastructure by tourists on roads local residents pay for, overuse of the water resource for pools, golf course, pesticides resorts use leeching into pristine waters, hotel lighting adverse effects on protected migratory wildlife, issue with natural disaster possibilities must cause unaffordable insurance costs to fully cover/protect should a disaster occur,” commented loki. “Create lawsuits asap to put a halt to any grading pre-development until a full halt is reached. Appleseed for Economic Justice, the pro-bono firm contacted in the 4yr fight=success per Front St. Apts., Lahaina/Maui vs unscrupulous quid pro quo developers (Weinberg), main office Honolulu. Form a resident Committee, protest at all civic meetings, appear continuously in the press and do not roll over. Hana hou.”

Here are the full results of the poll:

  • All of the above: 574 (62%).
  • Providing employment opportunities that are sustainable and pay well: 71 (7%).
  • Paying attention to the ʻāina (land) and being a good steward of it: 49 (5%).
  • None of the above. I have a different idea: 48 (5%).
  • Understanding the needs of the community where the development will be located: 40 (4%).
  • Being a part of or at least respecting the host culture, including burial sites, traditions and heritage: 38 (4%).
  • Fitting the development into the community’s way of life rather than the way of life being lost because of it: 37 (4%).
  • The ability to actively listen to concerns and compromise when needed: 32 (3%).
  • Protecting endangered plants and animals: 20 (2%).
  • Knowing when to stop a project when they must: 14 (1%).

Total votes: 923.

Watch for a new Big Island Now poll coming July 1.

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