Video courtesy Hawaii Legislature, voice of Stephanie Salazar
HILO, Hawaii: A Senate bill that would mandate that certain specified properties associated with Banyan Drive in Hilo be turned over by the Department of Land and Natural resources to the County of Hawaii is making its way through the legislature.
Senate Bill SB1361 senate draft 1 already passed through the senate committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, as well as the Committee on Water and Land
Senate Ways and Means has deferred decision on the bill until March 1st, at the earliest.
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi is a strong supporter of the bill, saying that with the deteriorating situation on Banyan Drive in general, and particularly at the Naniloa Volcanoes Resort, its time for the county to take over management of the area.
In testimony submitted to the senate committees, Kenoi details the problems at the Naniloa, saying the seven year DLNR lease held by the resort has been a “disaster for East Hawaii” and that “Enormous effort has been invested in bringing direct flights to Hilo to boost the East Hawai‘i economy, yet the lingering problems at the Naniloa jeopardize all of the progress that has been made…”
Now that Nanlioa’s parent company – Hawaii Outdoor Tours Inc. – has filed for protection in bankruptcy court, there appears to be even less of a chance the property will be renovated to meet the county’s hopes.
DLNR opposes the transfer, and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs also opposes the measure, as they oppose any transfer or sale of crown lands ceded to the United States.
Hawaii Island senators understand the situation. The above video is from a budget hearing in January, when Senators Malama Solomon and Gilbert Kahele had the opportunity to grill DLNR officials on the status of the Naniloa.