Thieves steal thousands of dollars of equipment from lo‘i restoration project

Ikaika M Hussey

HONOLULU—A major taro restoration project in He`eia was hard hit over the weekend by the theft of most of its equipment and supplies. The project, Mahuahua Ai o Hoi, was initiated by the non-profit Kako`o `Oiwi and is a collaborative effort with the Hawai`i Community Development Authority, Nature Conservancy, Ko`olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club and others to restore over 400 acres of land to productivity.

Thieves broke through a security gate and used blowtorches to open locked containers early this morning, making off with thousands of dollars worth of equipment and supplies and a pickup truck that had been donated to the project.

“This is a really tough blow to all of us working on this project,” said Kanekoa Kukea-Shultz, executive director of Kako`o `Oiwi. “We have many volunteers who have put in long hours of hard work to clear this acreage and plant taro for the community.”

The restoration project is aimed at repairing environmental damage and replacing alien vegetation with native plants and food crops on the HCDA land formerly belonging to Kamehameha Schools and once targeted for major urban development.

The non-profit received a 38-year lease on the property from HCDA, and is working on master planning and permitting requirements to proceed with full implementation of the restoration work.

An estimated $5,000 worth of equipment was lost, including chain saws, weed whackers, water pumps, Craftsman’s tools, and a 20x40 tent used for meetings with project partners, government officials and prospective funders.

Also taken was a used green Chevy King Cab pickup truck that was donated to the project to assist with transporting tools to various locations where volunteers were working.

Anyone having knowledge of the whereabouts of these tools is urged to contact Kako`o `Oiwi at (808) 235-8111 or the Honolulu Police Department.