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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 24, 2006

Heiau keeper rejects quake repairs

Associated Press

NORTH KOHALA, Hawai'i The keeper of a 1,500-year-old heiau near the northern tip of the Big Island says she doesn't want damage from Hawai'i's October earthquakes repaired at the state monument.

Leimomi Mookini Lum's family members have served as high priests at Mo'okini Heiau since the religious site was founded about 480 A.D.

"It has been here 1,500 years," she said. "I'm not going to change it. I'm 80. I don't look that good, but I looked good when I was 20."

The rock walls of the temple enclose a rectangular area nearly the size of a football field. The walls collapsed in four places, one about 12 feet wide.

Lum led a tour of the heiau on Wednesday for five officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and two from the Division of State Parks.

When the heiau was donated to the state in 1978 by Castle & Cooke Inc. and Bishop Estate, a stipulation in the land transfer required that Lum or her successors be consulted on all matters dealing with the heiau. The deal also banned archaeological excavations and restorations at the site.

If repairs were to be done, the task would cost $200,000, according to a state consultant's report.

Rebuilding the walls "would take a master builder carefully chosen from among the Hawaiian community," engineer Ardalan Nikou said in the report to the state.

However, state parks program manager Steve Thompson indicated that the state planned to follow Lum's wishes.

At the Pu'ukohola Heiau 16 miles to the south, Chief Ranger Ben Saldua said officials are still waiting for a cost estimate on repairing the national historic site after the Oct. 15 quakes.

Parts of the northeastern corner have collapsed and the rest are loose, Saldua said.

For now, people with cultural offerings are not being allowed onto the structure, he said.