Thursday, September 28, 2023
Kapu Family Files Lawsuit Against Peter Martin and West Maui Land Company for Lahaina Fires
From the press release:
Na'Aikane o Maui Cultural Center, Ke'eaumoku Kapu and U'ilani Kapu have sued Peter Martin and his West Maui Land Company's water subsidiaries Launiupoko Irrigation Company, Launiupoko Water Company and Launiupoko Water Development LLC over the Lahaina fires.
Their lawsuit contends that the Peter Martin conglomerate made worse the dry and dangerous conditions that led to the Lahaina fires by diverting streams and over-pumping Lahaina ground water for their luxury real estate developments without regard to the dangerous condition it would cause for the rest of Lahaina.
Beginning at the end of the nineteenth century, American and European sugar and pineapple plantations developed water diversion systems to irrigate industrial scale sugar and pineapple crops that altered natural ecosystems and forced many Native Hawaiian families off their own farmlands.
Peter Martin and his subsidiary companies bought the plantation's land claims and its control of the water diversion systems when they closed at the end of the twentieth century. Instead of continuing to irrigate large swaths of agricultural land, they developed luxury gated housing subdivisions and diverted virtually all of the water to those developments, leaving large tracts of land desolate.
In 2018, the Commission on Water Resource Management ordered Martin's companies to return sufficient flow to the streams they had been diverting. In response, his company began over-pumping wells closer to the shoreline in Lahaina town and then pumping the water uphill to his luxury housing subdivisions. In the process, remaining surface waters in Moku'ula dried up. Na'Aikane o Maui recently complained to the Commission on Water Resource Management about this "drying up" of Lahaina Town.
The new allegations are in addition to those that Na'Aikane o Maui Cultural Center and other Lahaina fire survivors have already asserted against the Peter Martin conglomerate for contributing to the Lahaina fires by neglecting to maintain the large swaths of land they control in West Maui.
Na'Aikane o Maui Cultural Center has also sued MECO, the State of Hawai’i, the County of Maui, and Kamehameha Schools for their role in causing the Lahaina fires.
Na'Aikane o Maui Cultural Center was a hub for West Maui's Native Hawaiian communities -- affirming traditional cultural practices to assisting Native Hawaiian families with genealogical and land claims research. It also maintained a library, map collection, and museum of culturally significant objects. It was situated at the edge of the historic boundary of Moku'ula, the sacred, royal island of Lahaina.
Na'Aikane o Maui Cultural Center, Ke'eaumoku Kapu and U'ilani Kapu are represented by Lance D Collins of the Law Office of Lance D. Collins and Mālama Law Group. Lance D. Collins is a Maui lawyer who, along with Honolulu lawyer Harrison L. Kiehm, and Maui lawyer Linda Nye leads the Mālama Law Group. Joining the Mālama Law Group from California is Hawaiian lawyer Kristine Kalama Keala (formerly Meredith), managing partner of Danko Meredith, a preeminent utility wildfire California firm that has won over $1 billion in cash compensation for survivors of utility fires. The Mālama Law Group represents property owners, renters, businesses and families who have lost loved ones in the Maui fire.