The Burning Question

Can the last Hawaii sugar plantation survive without cane fires? What happens to Maui if they stop?

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Nolan Hirai, manager of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health Clean Air Branch, says his office issues the burn permits to HC&S. “Each field has specific conditions designed to minimize impact to the communities. We also monitor air quality on Maui. We are trying to ensure the County of Maui is meeting federal standards.”

There are currently two air-monitoring stations on Maui, one in Kihei and one in Pa‘ia. A third station has been proposed for the Wailuku area. Bowie says that is a step in the right direction.

“We need to try to find a middle path in the debate,” she says. “How can we . . . work with the company and have a really robust debate and find solutions?”

The economic ramifications of the mill’s future cut across many layers of Maui society, not just the investors, workers and their families; but also other businesses that depend directly or indirectly on its survival. Many Maui storeowners, suppliers, and other farmers ride the plantation’s coattails. Hali‘imaile Pineapple President Darren Strand says his company often consolidates shipments of irrigation supplies with HC&S. “There are a lot of irrigation contractors who would not be in business if not for the big guys.”

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