June 12, 2015 | Source: hawaiitribune-herald.com

EA gives green light for Waimea Nui sustainability project

An initiative that will allow Native Hawaiians to work and be buried in their ahupuaa is a step closer to reality in Waimea.

An environmental assessment found no negative impacts from a planned 28-acre complex with a community agricultural park and post-harvest facility, and a 10-acre homestead cemetery. Later phases of the plan will include an equestrian center and golf facility on acreage overseen by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The community agricultural park will contain a farmers market building and a resource center, with 246 farm lots designed to give people and organizations a place to begin farming on a small scale, learn from others and share equipment. Work at the site was scheduled to start this summer, according to the EA, prepared by consultants Group 70 International.

The Waimea Nui Regional Community Development Initiative, four decades in the making, is centered on 114 acres of pasture land in southeast Waimea in the Puukapu Homestead Farm Lots subdivision. Last year, the initiative was granted $3.5 million through the state Department of Agriculture. The effort by the Waimea Hawaiian Homesteaders Association is designed to bring self-sufficiency to the homestead community by creating jobs in agriculture and recreation.

In releasing the funds in April 2014, then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie touted the project as a model for the rest of the state. The CDI is pursuing additional money needed for the $45 million plan through private financing, grants and revenue generated from on-site activity, according to DHHL.

The plan features a community agricultural park, a greenwaste biodigester, a post-harvest facility and commercial kitchen. In a second and third phase, the golf facility would include a practice course, a driving range, a chip and putt green, clubhouse and restaurant.

The commercial kitchen will allow farmers to meet food safety requirements while adding value to everything from baked goods to salad mixes through processing and labeling. The post-harvest facility will provide growers with an area to sort, brand and market their produce, according to the EA.

The 14.7-acre equestrian center will feature a paniolo heritage museum, stables for 50 horses and an arena suitable for local and national competitions, with grandstand space for 1,500 viewers. An onsite biodigester will be fed with manure and plant waste for fertilizer and energy production. Biodigester systems harness biogas as fuel for a generator.

The initiative provides for the first time a space for homesteaders to be buried within their homestead, according to the EA. The Waimea Cemetery is full and many deceased residents of the area have been buried in Kailua-Kona and Hilo, or have been cremated, which is not always in keeping with Native Hawaiian values. The 10-acre cemetery will contain a columbarium and a chapel and reception area capable of hosting 250 people.


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