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Maui residents express concern over rapid reconstruction efforts

Residents worry new construction could ride roughshod over historic preservation and environmental requirements

An emergency housing proclamation in the state of Hawaii declared by Gov. Josh Green (D) in July is conflicting with the desires of Maui residents as the island rebuilds after a devastating wildfire that destroyed the town of Lahaina.

The proclamation suspends several housing provisions, including historic preservation, environmental review, sunshine and collective bargaining laws. It replaces them with rules that permit rapid development and construction of new housing units, a move to address ballooning costs.

In a Thursday meeting of the Maui County Council, dozens of local residents said the proclamation could thwart forthcoming reconstruction efforts in Lahaina, Honolulu Civil Beat reported.

Chief Housing Officer Nani Medeiros said the town isn’t going to make any decisions under the declaration until the community is prepared.

A working group and other government officials are carrying out an assessment to identify available government and private land where new homes could be built to house Lahaina fire survivors.

“Infrastructure is the biggest challenge,” Medeiros said. “The meetings with the community members — the folks who have actually experienced the displacement — are key to any decisions,” on new construction.

Meanwhile, residents are encouraging tourists to return in order to encourage economic activity.

“Another way you can support Maui, come here,” local disc jockey Forest said on Mana’o Radio, NPR reported. “The Maui economy relies on tourism, to stay away now will just make the problem worse.”

Despite the destruction of Lahaina, 730 square miles of Maui — roughly 75% of the island — was untouched by the recent wildfire. Tourism accounts for the vast majority of the Maui economy.

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