Updated: Jun 15
MONDAY, APRIL 27, 2020
At a public hearing and regular meeting of the Board of Directors for the Board of Water Supply (BWS), the public was asked to submit testimony regarding the future of the Haʻikū Stairs. BWS allowed in-person testimony for the meeting by setting up a live video conference station in the lobby of the BWS main offices at 630 S. Beretania Street as well as letting the public phone in.
Although the Haʻikū Stairs is out of my district, I felt compelled to give my testimony because the issue is an example of a long-standing challenge in our state: how to balance the needs of our visitors, local residents, and natural environment.
I told the Board that I didn’t believe tearing down the stairs would stop would-be thrill-seekers and hikers from attempting the hike. These individuals already put themselves at huge risk to attempt the world-famous stairway. They will most likely continue trespassing. But because they are willing to risk it, I believe this problem presents an opportunity. New sources of funding, especially in the post-COVID era, will be critical to our state and local governments.
Rather than tear down the stairs, which would cost the taxpayer a sizable amount of money, I suggested that BWS, or the government agency in charge, issue permits to hikers at a significant fee.
If they are willing to risk large fines, then that means they are willing to pay for the views. I wanted the model to be similar to the permitting for the Kalalau Trail. This money can be used to maintain the stairway, provide the necessary safety and security for nearby residents, and also add an additional revenue source. Not to mention, we would still get to keep a piece of our island's history that both residents and visitors have enjoyed over the years.
I believe there should be the appropriate reduced fees for kamaʻāina and native Hawaiians as well.
This solution is a window into my overall platform. Government does not have to be black and white. Just because a certain function of government doesn’t exist, it does not mean we should think it’s impossible.
Nearly any problem can be turned into an opportunity. We can balance all of the interests at play in our ʻāina. We just need government leaders who are willing to work hard and think outside the box to get things done.
I'm happy to report that the Board voted in favor of transferring responsibility of the stairway to the City and County of Honolulu, thanks to the thousands of testimonies submitted mirroring my own views. They are now exploring options to to allow the public access the stairway with the appropriate systems in place.