PRESS RELEASE -- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Ka`u Preservation 808-928-8144
DEVELOPER PLANS MASSIVE LUXURY “ECO” RESORT AT PUNULU`U IN KA`U: HAWAI`I’S LARGEST WILDERNESS AREA
Jean Michel Cousteau Supports Development that Would Destroy Natural and Sacred Areas, and Endanger Protected Species.
Sept. 15, 2006, Punalu`u Beach, Ka`u, Hawai`i
Why would a leading “environmentalist and ocean explorer” support a massive development that will, according to most experts, have a negative impact on fragile coastal habitat of some of the most endangered species in the world, in one of last great open spaces of Hawai`i? This is the question that has many scratching their heads in disbelief when they learn that the son of the late legendary Jacques Cousteau, is a partner in the construction of a mega “eco” resort that would be built on sacred Hawaiian lands protected for generations.
Riding positive publicity from his recent film production about the northwest Hawaiian islands, Jean-Michel Cousteau, has decided to support a project that will harm critical habitat at Punalu`u in Hawai`i’s southernmost undeveloped region.
In a recent article in West Hawaii Today (9/15/06), JM Cousteau, who is a paid consultant to Sea Mountain Five, said "We can look at nature as a business..."
According to the Hawai`i Tribune Herald (9/15/06), this is not the first time that JM Cousteau has worked with developers. “His organization, Ocean Futures also is active at 10 other ocean environmentally conscious developments. One, Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort, tore a rift in the Cousteau family. Cousteau initially did not have "Jean-Michel" in the hotel's title, which prompted his father, Jacques, to file a lawsuit demanding that the first name be added.”
To date, Ka`u Preservation’s many attempts to reach JM Cousteau by phone have failed.
Both the developer and JM Cousteau claim they are working closely with the community, but in fact, they have given no notice of any meetings to the public since they presented their project in January. They have also excluded anyone from the monthly “private” meetings by lack of notification that have questioned the development, including members of Ka`u Preservation. According to Joanne Fierstein, a member of Ka`u Preservation, who attended all of the meetings since the group’s formation, “I was not notified of the last two meetings after I questioned statements by Pat Blew, who represents the development.”
George Atta, Group 70 International planning consultant, representing the developer, claims “they will provide 500 permanent jobs,” without definition. In fact, based on the model of other eco-resorts, most of the permanent jobs will be low paying, unskilled labor positions. The developer admits that “construction workers will have to be brought in from the outside” thus reducing opportunities for local employment.
Atta also envisions a temporary housing project to be built on “adjacent Hawaiian Homelands” that is currently zoned “Conservation” to provide the “out-of-town” construction workers a place to live. This would mean taking more lands out of conservation for affordable housing, rather than putting affordable housing where the development is proposed.
The developer promises to keep all development “on average” four hundred feet from the coast. Does this mean that the hotel complex and shopping center will be built closer
than 400 feet in some areas?
The developer also claims to be “working with people in Ka`u to shape the Cultural Center” they are promising. However, according to the Sept. issue of the Ka`u Calendar the developer is in negotiations with a “community group” named `O Ka`u Kakou (“We are Ka`u”) which represents a small group of people who have been supporting the development since its inception and some of who have agreed to serve as consultants for Group 70. In fact, some of the members of this group are in a position to benefit financially by the development if approved. The developer has never attempted to
contact Ka`u Preservation, Ka`u’s largest community group with several hundred supporters who have been actively protecting Ka’u’s resources for over twenty years.
West Hawai`i Today (9/15/06) states that in 1989... “despite objections by the community and Hawaiian groups, Punalu`u Development received a special management area (SMA) permit from the Planning Commission.” In fact the paper failed to mention that the SMA permit was stopped in a court action in a contested case hearing, brought on by Punalu`u Preservation which is now Ka`u Preservation.
For more information on the work of Ka`u Preservation you can visit their educational website: www.kaupreservation.org. Or you can call: 808-928-1018 for more information.