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Gaffney: Hawaii’s boating tea party?

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By Rick Gaffney

The Hawaii Fishing & Boating Association (HF&BA) drew more than 350 people to its first community meeting June 10 at Kona’s Honokohau Harbor. By the end of that week over 600 people in the Kona community had signed a petition asking for a legislative investigation into the management of Honokohau.

Within a week, more than 850 new members had joined the HF&BA.

What precipitated this boating tea party?

Following on the heels of one rate increase after another, the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) decided to implement parking fees at Honokohau Small Boat Harbor. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Honokohau Harbor has long seen its surplus revenues flow elsewhere to support other boating facilities, while it remained unfinished, and suffered from collapsing piers, long-term water and electric problems, sanitary and environmental issues, safety and security issues, filthy restrooms, slippery launch ramps and unpaved parking lots.

In short, it is a mess, and never seemed to get any better, despite regular fee increases.

Moreover, the proposed parking fees were going to be quickly implemented without adequate public disclosure, and without much more than a rudimentary plan tailored after one established for the Ala Wai. The two harbors have very little in common.

Honokohau has always been completely accessible to the public and has always supported diverse activities ranging from world class sport fishing to youth-at-risk paddling programs; baby luaus to funerals; sailing, fishing and paddling clubs; and much more. It also supports some 200 small businesses, including commercially permitted activities out of 45% of the berths, a higher percentage of commercial berths than any other small boat harbor.

The businesses at Honokohau wanted the public to feel welcome, and the community wanted continued free access to the ocean and the many public activities that take place at the harbor and the facilities located there.

Their concern was that the proposed parking fees would create a barrier between the harbor and the community, and the idea was explosively unpopular when the DOBOR revealed it in early April. That was the breaking point.

Several long time boating community members got together, polled the business community and the harbor users, and found universal interest in challenging DOBOR’s apparently institutionalized disdain for the boaters of Hawaii.

The Hawaii Fishing & Boating Association, a group founded in the mid-80’s by Capt. Pat Nelson, was revived. Instantly a steering committee of 15 harbor users got in touch with DOBOR, Hawaii’s BLNR member Rob Pacheco, Mayor Billy Kenoi, Councilman Kelly Greenwell and state Rep. Denny Coffman, and began the push back.

The organization is proposing that the DLNR/DOBOR work with the Hawaii Fishing & Boating Association, and area legislators, to actively pursue a new management paradigm for Honokohau Harbor, embracing a public/private management authority focused on improving those facilities and keeping them financially solvent, supportive of the ocean recreation industry and open to the community.

The Association’s mission statement is: “To advocate for effective management of our boating facilities and fisheries.”

The organization’s strategy is “to represent community stakeholders, to be proactive on issues that affect our harbor users/activities/facilities and to work as a partner with local, state, federal and other entities to ensure community access to the ocean, fisheries sustainability and insure the full involvement of the community in ocean resource and boating facilities management decisions.”

While the parking fees were the progenitor, other issues have come up. Convoluted new DOBOR rules; expensive changes to all of our slip descriptions from “bow-and-stern” to “along catwalk;” capricious changes to long-time bookkeeping standards regarding the distribution of harbor generated revenues; and overall administrative arrogance at the top of DOBOR.

For more information and membership forms, contact HawaiiFBA@gmail.com or call HF&BA Secretary, Tina Prettyman, at 329-7896.

(Gaffney is president of Hawaii Fishing & Boating Association and is a long-time fishing and marine advocate.)

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