Kihei Population explosion

It is no secret that Kihei is one of the fastest growing urban areas in the state.

South Maui’s population is growing, and tourism continues to expand and dominate. Many people have been calling for better-managed tourism, and placing caps on tourism has been discussed. There have even been County policy decisions on making tourism about “Quality over Quantity”.

The Pandemic forced many of us to reexamine our priorities and to rethink our island’s economy.  There is an urgent need to rebalance our economy away from tourism to a more sustainable model. Many people think that we have already reached our limit for how many tourists our island can handle, and several experts have said that we have, in fact, exceeded our island’s carrying capacity. Yet they still come.

What many local residents might be shocked to find out is that the Maui Planning Department has approved Three New Hotels in South Maui. Two of these hotels were grandfathered in on old approvals that had previously expired and were entended multiple times.  The Planning Commission should never have approved these hotels without a new study that reflected current conditions. 

Three new hotels for South Maui

More people, same space: With just, the newly approved development Kihei Population is set to expand by about 5500, and more developments are in the pipeline. The Maui County Planning Commission doesn’t know how to say No! Keep in mind that there are no plans for adding any infrastructure. No new community centers, no new swimming pools, and no new beach parks.

Show me the water: Where is all the water coming from? In years past, any new developments would have to “Show me the water”. They would have to develop their own water resources and prove that they could provide enough water to sustain themselves, But that has all gone by the wayside, and the building is accelerating at an alarming pace.

Population Exchange: Local people are leaving the island at a faster rate than they are being born, so Who are we building all this for anyway? Are we simply building and developing for its own sake, and who is buying all this new housing?

The answer is mostly mainlanders, It is a great time to be a real estate agent, developer, or builder. The largest share of recent home sales is to mainlanders, and a lot of second homes are being sold. Young local families are not aspiring to home-ownership here, but instead are looking for more affordable options on the mainland. Many of our high-school graduates who go to college on the mainland will not return. Our local population is aging and our younger population is leaving us. Affordable housing is not working for locals for many reasons, and housing alone is not enough to keep our young people here, they also need jobs and opportunities to get ahead, and they need a reasonable cost of living, All of these things are getting harder to attain on this island.

Timeshares and Hotel Rooms: A large portion of the building is Time Shares and Hotels rooms. But why is this happening now when we are consciously steering away from the tourism economy? And where do all of these people go?

Where do we put everybody? There are only so many roads, beaches, parking spaces, and places to put everyone. Finding a nice quiet beach to yourself is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Traffic jams are becoming the norm, and parking is getting scarce. Long lines in stores, and crowded restaurants are getting worse. Don’t forget you now have to book to see the sunrise at Haleakala. and the tour boats to Molokini are often sold out, we just recently ran out of rental cars. All these things are signposts that we might be getting into problem territory. We are heading into a “People-pocalypse” (people+apocalypse) and there is little we can do about it.

We are heading into a “People-pocalypse”

Builders are going to keep building: Builders are going to keep building, that is what they do, developers and going to keep developing, and real estate people are going to keep selling to anyone who has the money to buy. People have to feed their families right?

So who is responsible for pumping the brakes?

Our leaders have been asleep at the wheel. Too many administrations have come and gone without meaningfully addressing our island.’s carrying capacity, and have not taken any meaningful measures to slow the growth rate or limit the level of tourism. That has to stop, and we need to make our leaders accountable and compel them to do their jobs.

How can we do this?  It is simple and yet it is difficult, (just like “lifting a boulder” is simple but difficult). Simple because all we need to do is “speak up, and actually show up”.  Simple huh? but more difficult than you think. But at all these meetings and county committee meetings there are very few local people who actually show up to testify. Maybe they are too busy working or do not know when the meetings are. maybe they are too trusting in our administrators and presume that they are looking out for what is best for all of us.

People-power can Work: We need a lot more people to make the effort and find the time to come to a meeting and speak for three minutes or take the time to write a letter or email. We need to all follow through and speak up for what we want to preserve and protect. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot make a difference. Every voice is counted, and everyone who stands up to be counted gets a vote.

It is a mistake to think that someone else has got this: FYI, they do not, there are a few community groups that do speak for their memberships, So maybe you should join these groups if you are too busy to testify in person. But nobody can do a better job of speaking for you than you. You also should be speaking up for all the ones who cannot speak for themselves. You represent your family and your keiki and future descendants. Many kupuna do not even have emails and their stories need to be told, and their interests need to be defended as well, So you need to take on some kuleana for your ohana and your community as well.

Now it’s more important than ever to speak up, and demand justice and fairness. 

Go here if you want to learn how to Testify at a County Meeting.