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.


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