(BIVN) – A group of Big Island residents spoke out on Tuesday during a Hawai’i County Council meeting in Hilo, about a month after the failure of a bill that would have ended the County’s use of herbicides in maintaining parks and roads.
Puna councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz changed her vote on the bill and sided with the administration. On Tuesday, she brought forward a related resolution.
Councilwoman Kierkiewicz and Hilo councilwoman Sue Lee Loy issued this media release on January 31:
In an effort to reconcile the expressed public priority of reducing herbicide use and the Administration’s concerns with previously considered legislation, Hawai‘i County Councilmembers Ashley Kierkiewicz and Sue Lee Loy have introduced Resolution No. 475-20, which moves the County of Hawaiʻi toward eliminating herbicide exposure to the public by reducing its use on land managed by the County.
This resolution comes after Bill No. 101, which proposed a blanket ban on the County’s use of 23 types of active ingredients, was unable to gather the support of the Mayor and a supermajority of the Council.
“All the passionate voices that came out to testify on Bill 101 left no doubt in my mind that this Council must find a pathway forward for our children and for our environment by reducing the County’s use of herbicides,” Lee Loy said. “This resolution proposes a more measured approach that involves our community in finding solutions, and keeps everyone engaged for the development of future balanced policies.”
The new approach proposed in Resolution No. 475-20 encourages the establishment of a vegetation management advisory commission that could investigate solutions, generate ideas for workable legislation that balances risks and benefits, and would draw on a wide variety of expert advice to help the Council and the Administration make good decisions.
“This resolution puts health and safety of our keiki and environment at the forefront. We are creating a space that ensures collaborative, coordinated, and responsible policymaking. When we work in partnership with those who administer our policies as well as with community stakeholders, we strengthen relationships, and set ourselves up to implement solutions that work,” Kierkiewicz said.
The resolution, however, was slammed Tuesday during public testimony.
“This resolution purports to be environmental protection, but actually … it functions to shield the chemical companies from regulation,” said environmental activist Koohan Paik-Mander. “So it’s basically gaslighting the community by purporting to be one thing, and doing something else. And the community gets left with this toothless resolution. We don’t deserve this. The community of the Big Island doesn’t deserve this. We are more important than Monsanto. We deserve the protection, not Monsanto.”
Abel Simeona Lui, a kupuna and aloha ʻāina advocate, spoke passionately in opposition to continued herbicide spraying. When his testimony went beyond the three minute time limit, the council called a recess until feelings simmered down.
The resolution also failed to get support from the councilmembers who had voted in support of Bill 101. After a motion to postpone the resolution failed to pass, councilmember Kierkiewicz withdrew her proposal.