HomePasifikaMaui County officials to lead plan to rebuild Lahaina

Maui County officials to lead plan to rebuild Lahaina

In the wake of the destruction of the Maui wildfires, a state representative has taken efforts into her own hands to speed up the rebuilding of Lahaina.

Hawaii State Rep. Elle Cochran has been spearheading these reconstruction efforts, by creating a network of contractors, architects, suppliers, and other building professionals.

Cochran states that she aims to help people rebuild as quickly as possible once they get permission from Maui County.

“I want the families who are from here to be able to get back to their properties” she said in an interview with Civil Beat. In addition, these efforts were also born out of Cochran’s frustration with the Maui County government over a lack of initiative. She told Lahaina News back in May that her biggest issue with working at the Capitol was an “utter lack of transparency, no sunshine, and decisions made behind closed doors“.

While Maui County officials announced a long-term recovery plan for Lahaina last week, it is expected to take months to develop. County officials plan to hold a public meeting with homeowners on Tuesday, where officials will discuss infrastructure, rebuilding, insurance, and other topics.

“That they’re going to set up a one-stop shop. Boom: One-stop shop.”, said Cochran in an interview with Civil Beat, when she was asked about Tuesday’s meeting. “And if you don’t have enough staffing, you outsource and get this done”, she added.

She further went on to say that such setbacks regarding relief efforts and information are causing people to leave Maui. “It’s people who created the community and culture of Lahaina…and if they don’t return, the harm will be irreparable.” said Cochran.

Estimations from the Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement show that over 1,500 people have moved out of Maui County ever since August, with more than 1,000 households being lost as of February, according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization.

County Planning Director Kate Blynstone and Office of Recovery executive assistant Jennifer Mayden discussed Maui county’s long-term recovery plan at a community meeting. There, they described the recovery plan as being similar to the plan for what happened to Paradise, California, in 2018. Paradise held seven listening sessions over two months with residents and took surveys to see what the community wanted most.

Paradise, California, eight months after the devastating Camp Fire (July 2019)
By Frank Schulenburg via Wikipedia Creative Commons

However there is a major difference. Paradise completed its plan in seven months, while Maui County is just getting started eight months after. The report is expected to be finish in the fall, over a year after the fires.

While the county plays a massive role in the permitting and regulation of home construction, there is still a need to help residents with things like logistics, plumbing, electricity, and all the other elements required into building a home, especially when hundred are trying to do so at the same time. Cochran said that “People might be able to build not just faster but more cheaply if they join forces and create economies of scale, paying for design, material and labor in bulk rather than piecemeal”.

Cochran has laid out these ideas for residents in a seven-page plan. While the document is ready for release, she has told Civil Beat that “out of courtesy and respect, I want to ask a few more Lahaina residents and groups to review it”, before it goes out. In addition, there will be two upcoming disaster recovery community update meetings on April 24th and May 1st.

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