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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 7, 2010

Families say they'll sue Kauai County over demolition

By Paul Curtis
The Garden Island

LIHU‘E, Kauai — Native Hawaiian Wainiha Bay land owners tried to obtain a temporary restraining order preventing the county from demolishing buildings the land owners say are on their land, countering the county’s claim they were illegally placed on county property.

The Native Hawaiian land owners were not able to secure the TRO in time to prevent a county bulldozer from destroying one structure Thursday that has been on the property for years, said Eleanor “Lady” Haumea and Deilon Haumea.

Their families share ownership of the beach-front land, around a third of an acre, and said more legal action is forthcoming.

Beth Tokioka, executive assistant to Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho Jr., said Friday the county stands by its Thursday actions.

“We stand behind the due diligence we did,” and the county is fulfilling its responsibilities to take care of its lands, she said.

“If we’re in the wrong about where the (property) line is, our door is open to the Haumeas to show us otherwise,” said Tokioka, adding that county surveyors determined the demolished structures were on county land, not private property.

The Haumeas and other owners of the property have support from representatives of the Kingdom of Atooi, said Ka‘imi Hermosura, North Shore konohiki (customary chief) for the kingdom.

“They (the county) told me that the land is not ours,” said Lady Haumea, adding that there appears to be discrepancies in separate surveys conducted for the family and county.

The family survey indicates the family land is not partially underwater, as the county claims, verifying what Lady Haumea said she has known for years: that the shack that had housed family boats and fishing nets that was destroyed by the county bulldozer Thursday was and always has been on family land, not county property.

“We never moved anything. That’s the original,” there from her father’s time at least 40 to 50 years ago, said Lady Haumea, adding that the owners are current on their county real property taxes.

“I can’t understand why the county would do this. Where do we go? I don’t know where we’re going next,” she said.

“I lived here all my life. I know that land. Nothing moved,” she said. Yes, the trees have matured, she said.

Lady Haumea said she told the county officials to do what they felt they had to do on Thursday, but did say, “It’s illegal what you guys are doing.”

In addition to the fishing shack that was destroyed, also removed was a tent where her daughter had been living, she said. Lady Haumea lives in Wainiha on another piece of land near the bay, but not the same parcel where the bulldozing took place.

She said her family uses that ocean-front parcel for recreational purposes.

Deilon Haumea said he asked the county for a few more days to try to locate pins marking the four corners of the property, and that surveyors contacted to do a survey of the property didn’t arrive in time to do the survey which may have stopped the county action.

County surveyors also didn’t find the property pins, he said, a comment disputed by Tokioka.

“They just didn’t want to wait,” said Deilon Haumea, involved in real estate and foreclosures in Los Angeles but on the island now. He is Lady Haumea’s nephew, she said.

The action Thursday was all based on the county’s survey, not on any court order or judge’s order, he said.

It was an “illegal eviction, the wild, wild west way, not the way it should be done,” said Deilon Haumea, adding that the county crew treated those on the property as campers and not as land owners.

“Are we in the wild, wild west, or are we in a place with law and order?”

When told of the county’s description of Friday’s return to the property as a cleanup action, he characterized it another way: “Destroy the evidence.”

He knows the county has property adjacent to his family’s property. “It’s all hau bush. It’s a jungle,” he said of the county property, which he said was never maintained as a park.

If a portion of his family’s property is underwater as the county claims, he may seek retroactive rebates of real property taxes paid on property that if under ocean water is also uninhabitable, he said.

Hermosura said the Haumeas have asserted their mineral rights that come with the property, and a formal written request to cease the bulldozing process was given to the county and signed and sealed by Dayne Aipoalani, ali‘i nui of the Kingdom of Atooi, and signed also by Hermosura and other customary chiefs.

They have also drafted a petition in support of the family, he said.

There was no mediation, no discussion, no writs, no legal procedure involved in Thursday’s action, said Hermosura. “The county’s supposed to be for the people.”

Further, Hermosura and others in the kingdom are working to get legal representation and other help for the families, he said.