Hawaii Takes Ad Hoc Approach to Preserving Farmland

Mike Levine/Civil Beat

The debate swirling around a proposed community development in Central Oahu is just the latest example of the tension between growth and farmland preservation in Hawaii.

Castle and Cooke's proposed development at Koa Ridge and Waiawa calls for 5,000 housing units with businesses, healthcare facilities and schools on former pineapple land between Mililani and Waipio.

But before bulldozers can scrape the fields, the Hawaii Land Use Commission soon must decide whether to convert 766 acres from the agricultural district, where law does not allow development, to the urban district, where it does. More than 28,000 acres of prime farmland have been lost statewide since 1972.

The Oahu case is an example of how the state lacks a hard and fast land management plan, more than 30 years after Hawaii voters made clear that they wanted one.

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