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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Contact:     Jesse Broder Van Dyke, Mayor Caldwell's Office, 768-6928

                  Laura Kaakua, The Trust for Public Land, 524-8562


Hwea heiau complex & Keawawa wetland in East Honolulu protected




Speakers at the press conference included Mayor Kirk Caldwell, Councilmember Stanley Chang, DLNR First Deputy Jesse Souki, Senator Laura Thielen, Representative Gene Ward, Livable Hawaii Kai Hui President Elizabeth Reilly, Avalon Group President & CEO Christine Camp, and Vice-Chair of The Trust for Public Land's Hawaii Advisory Council Gregg Takara.  More photos:


Hawaii Kai Today, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Councilmember Stanley Chang, together with officials from State of Hawaii and representatives from The Trust for Public Land, Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui, and Hale Ka Lae, announced that Hawaii Kai's Hwea heiau complex and Keawawa wetland will be protected as a community-owned and managed Hawaiian cultural heritage preserve.


Funding for the $650,000 project came in equal parts from the City & County of Honolulu's Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund and the State of Hawaii's Legacy Land Conservation Fund.


Hwea heiau complex is a window to the past with petroglyphs, ancient niu (coconut) grove, agricultural terraces, a spring, and many ancient Hawaiian walls and structures including heiau (places of worship) and an ahu (altar). This deep human history is matched by a natural richness that would have supported Hawaiian cultural practices and daily life.


The Trust for Public Land purchased the property from Hale Ka Lae and transferred the land to Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui ("the Hui"), a community nonprofit that has been caring for Hwea heiau complex & Keawawa wetland since 2009. The Hui is preserving and teaching traditional Hawaiian cultural practices, restoring the land and introducing people to the property's powerful history.


"Preserving and protecting the Hwea heiau complex and Keawawa wetland will benefit the people of O'ahu for generations to come," said Mayor Kirk Caldwell. "This heritage preserve is located in the heart of Hawai'i Kai's residential and commercial development.  Keeping it green and maintaining the Native Hawaiian cultural significance shows that O'ahu can grow without losing our roots. Our keiki will always be able to visit Hwea, hear the old stories, learn the traditions associated with this area and pass them on to the next generation.  Councilmember Chang led the city's effort to preserve this irreplaceable treasure and I applaud his determination."


Councilmember Stanley Chang stated: "The residents of East Honolulu have passionately advocated to preserve Hwea heiau complex and Keawawa wetland, and I am pleased to have played a role in supporting these efforts with my fellow councilmembers. With the purchase and transfer of the land from private to public ownership through the nonprofits The Trust for Public Land and Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui, we have ensured that this land will never be developed."


"The protection of Hwea heiau complex and Keawawa wetland is inspiring in that it demonstrates how government agencies, private nonprofits and the community can work together toward a successful outcome," said Governor Neil Abercrombie. "I applaud Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui's collaborative efforts to remove the invasive kiawe, restore Keawawa wetland which functions as green infrastructure, and care for the ancient niu grove. Together with initiatives such as the state's Rain Follows the Forest Watershed Initiative, our joint efforts will ensure continued progress in managing invasive species, mitigating the impacts of climate change, and increasing local food production."


State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair William Aila Jr. shared, "Keawawa wetland offers a rare refuge for native wildlife in East Honolulu. Species making a home in the wetland include endangered 'alae 'ula (Hawaiian moorhen), 'auku'u (Black-crowned night heron), and pinao (Hawaiian dragonfly)." 


The property is on Hawai'i Kai Drive in the center of Hawai'i Kai traditionally known as Maunalua only minutes from Costco, between The Oahu Club (an outdoor fitness facility) and the Hale Ka Lae condominium project.


Prior landowners planned to develop outdoor private amenities on the property (such as tennis courts and a swimming pool) to benefit a proposed luxury condominium development. Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui Board Member and Cultural Committee Member Ann Marie Kirk stated, "On November 7, 2009, Hwea heiau complex was under severe threat of being erased. We put out a simple khea, a simple call, asking people to join us with their drums at their sacred sites as we drummed at Hwea. The pahu, or drum, is a symbol of our heartbeat; the pulse of our land. Across the oceans the call was heard, and now four years later Hwea, the piko of Maunalua, is saved. We gratefully and happily embrace the next phase of our kuleana to this irreplaceable site."


A new and hopeful chapter began in 2010 when Hale Ka Lae purchased the property, learned about Hwea heiau complex's cultural significance, and then agreed to sell the property to The Trust for Public Land below the appraised value. Hale Ka Lae is building a condominium on the adjacent property and sees the value that a protected cultural site and wetland bring to Hale Ka Lae's future residents. "The Trust for Public Land's research has shown what real estate experts have known for a long time - parks and open space can increase the value of surrounding land and development," said Christine Camp, President and CEO of Avalon Group that is overseeing the Hale Ka Lae condominium project. "We have been working with the Hui and community for a number of years, are proud of how far we have come, and look forward to our continued partnership."


"Maunalua was home to the largest fishpond in all of Polynesia Keahupuaomaunalua and Hwea heiau complex and Keawawa wetland lies where that fertile resource met Kaluanui Ridge. That fishpond is now Hawaii Kai Marina and the Maunalua landscape has changed, but thanks to Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui, the State, the City, OHA, the landowner, and hundreds of volunteers and supporters, Hwea heiau complex & Keawawa wetland will remain. Saving this special place means that all future generations will have somewhere to connect with the land, and perpetuate East Honolulu's rich cultural legacy. The Trust for Public Land is so proud to have been involved in this wonderful project," said Laura Hknani Edmunds Kaakua, Native Lands Project Manager of The Trust for Public Land.


Dr. Kamana'opono Crabbe, Ka Pouhana (Chief Executive Officer) for The Office of Hawaiian Affairs stated, "Oral and written accounts convey Hwea's prominent role as a place of origin for one of only two pahu heiau (religious drums) ʻpuku and Hwea used ceremonially at the ali'i birthing grounds of Kkaniloko, Piko o O'ahu. The mo'olelo associated with this magnificent wahi kapu continue on, and combined with the remaining invaluable hana lima 'ike o n kpuna i hala, offer another bridge for Hawaiians today to their precious ancestral heritage." The Office of Hawaiian Affairs provided cultural and historic guidance to the community and the State Historic Preservation Division, and funded a grant to partially support The Trust for Public Land's Native Lands Project Manager position for much of the time The Trust for Public Land worked to protect Hwea.


Many groups, agencies and public officials supported the acquisition. Hawai'i Kai Neighborhood Board Chair Greg Knudsen commented, "Protecting Hwea is a momentous accomplishment it shows that neighbors and friends can come together to protect what is close to home and near to their hearts."


State Senator Laura Thielen and Representative Gene Ward shared, "We are grateful to the many partners and public officials that made the protection of this special property possible. The protection of Hwea shows what can happen when everybody works together."


The Hui hopes the protection of Hwea heiau complex will spur a deeper appreciation of Hawaiian culture. Hui President Elizabeth Reilly shared, "Guided by our Cultural Committee, eventually we hope to create a p pahu (drumming area), traditional hale (house), and a l'au lapa'au (Hawaiian medicinal plant) garden. For now, we are enjoying welcoming the public to our community open house and volunteer day every second Saturday from 8:30-11:30am." Volunteer efforts include removing invasive species, planting native species, cleaning the well, delineating walking paths, and caring for the cultural sites.


Reflecting on the past four years Reilly stated: "It is truly amazing what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish. I am honored to work alongside my neighbors to care for Hwea, and humbled to see that our small group has grown to an entire community."


To volunteer at Hwea heiau complex contact Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui at or (808) 864-8081, or just show up at 8:30am every second Saturday on Hawai'i Kai Drive across from 'inahou Street.


About Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui

"Livable Hawai'i Kai Hui is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan community organization serving East Honolulu since 2004. We strive to promote sensible growth and respect for the land. Our mission is to uphold the integrity of the East Honolulu Sustainable Communities Plan which sets guidelines for sensible development respectful of natural resources that make East Honolulu a unique place to live. Learn more at"


About The Trust for Public Land

"Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to connect with nature, and that the land-and-people connection is central to health, culture, heritage, economic wellbeing, and quality of life.  In Hawai'i we seek to engage local residents in protecting significant community resources, including coastal lands, working lands that contribute to Hawai'i's self-sufficiency, and lands that perpetuate Hawaiian culture. Our Native Lands Program is dedicated to empowering Native Hawaiian communities, nonprofits, and agencies that serve Native Hawaiians, to own and steward lands that sustain Native Hawaiian communities and cultural practices. Since 1979, we have helped to conserve more than 42,000 acres on the islands of Hawai'i, O'ahu, Kaua'i, Maui, and Moloka'i.  Learn more at"