On Monday, Hawaii’s Democrat Governor Josh Green announced that his administration is actively considering acquiring properties in Lahaina that have been devastated by recent wildfires.
A total of 99 deaths were recorded as a result of the wildfires that occurred in Maui. Concerns have been raised among officials regarding the potential increase in the death toll, as just 25% of the burn area has been searched thus far.
Local residents are grappling with not only the loss of homes and loved ones but the unsettling attention of developers looking to capitalize on their tragedy.
USA Today reported a particularly distressing account of Tammy Kaililaau, whose home of 20 years was reduced to ashes.
Less than a week after the catastrophic event, she received a Facebook message from someone in real estate. Kaililaau, along with other residents, had been warned via social media that developers might try to buy their land, so she ignored the message.
John Dimuro, a resident on the island for more than 40 years and an employee for Marriott in West Maui, summed up the local sentiment against large corporations or wealthy individuals buying up the land. “The government should just say ‘no, you’re not allowed to develop,’” he said on Monday. “Say no, just flat out no.”
Governor Green vowed to “protect” the land from foreign buyers looking to exploit the situation, The Post Millenial reported.
Governor Green expressed his determination to prevent this tragedy from becoming a mere memory or a chance for foreign investors to capitalize on the misfortune of others.
“I’m already thinking of ways for the state to acquire that land so that we can put it into workforce housing, to put it back into families, or make it open spaces in perpetuity as a memorial to the people who were lost,” Green said.
“We want this to be something we remember after the pain passes as a magic place. Lahaina will rebuild. The tragedy right now is the loss of life. The buildings can be rebuilt over time, even the banyan tree may survive, but we don’t want this to become a clear space where then people from overseas just come and decide they’re gonna take it. The state will take it and preserve it first.”
In another press conference, Governor Green elaborated on the potential legal actions that are under consideration.
“So I’ve actually reached out to our Attorney General to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed,” he said.
“Moreover, I would caution people that it’s going to be a very long time before any growth or housing can be built. And so you will be pretty poorly informed if you try to steal land from our people and then build here. In discussions last night amongst colleagues of mine, people I trust, we’re hopeful to create a memorial for the people in the state of Hawaii in this site,” he added.
Trying to take land away from our people before we’ve had a chance to grieve and rebuilt is not pono, and we will not stand for it. pic.twitter.com/gZczd1oLTo
— Governor Josh Green (@GovJoshGreenMD) August 15, 2023