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Farmers stage tractor protest in Downtown Honolulu | News

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Farmers stage tractor protest in Downtown Honolulu
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The battle over prime Oahu farmland moves to the city streets of Downtown Honolulu as protestors haul in heavy machinery to make their point.

A farm tractor on Bishop Street?  It's just not a good fit just like townhomes don't belong on a farm.  That's the argument from opponents of the proposed Ho'opili development in West Oahu.

The tractors pulled through Downtown Honolulu weren't there to farm but to cultivate awareness against the proposed Ho'opili housing development.

"We're trying to raise consciousness of the public to the fact that we are in a crisis about losing our farmland," explained Keoni Dudley, Save Oahu Farmlands Alliance Chairman and Makakilo resident. "Once the farmland is gone it's gone."

The Save Oahu Farmlands Alliance doesn't want the rows of crops to be replaced with rows of houses.

"In the first place we have 30,000 homes already zoned and ready to go out in the Leeward plain. We have another 17,000 planned up in the area where Koa Ridge is. Do we really need another 12,000 homes? No I don't think we do at all. Let's build the homes we have right now already planned," said Dudley.  "How are we going to feed ourselves? We only have one week's supply of food on this island. We bring in 80 to 90 percent of our food.  Why would we let our most valuable highest producing farmland in the state go to 12,000 houses that aren't needed?"

The group passed out flyers at corners and harvested signatures for their petition.

"Because I believe we are going to be out of food if we don't help the small farms and if we buy local first then we're putting right back into the economy," said Julie Wong, a Niu Valley resident who signed the petition.

"We certainly appreciate everybody's perspective and the right of these folks to come out here and deliver their message. I think we're just going to continue to move forward," said Cameron Nekota, D.R. Horton Schuler Homes Vice President. "We're a 20 year project and there's no desire on our part to evict farmers tomorrow."

The project would include 11,750 homes, five schools and business development on 1,554 acres.  It's between Kapolei, Ewa and Waipahu and next to the new UH West Oahu campus and Kroc Center.

"Ho'opili really represents the final piece to creating this true secondary urban center," said Nekota. "I think overtime you're going to see a need to constantly be providing homes for people at affordable rates."

Nalo Farms President Dean Okimoto supports the Ho'opili project and says there are thousands of acres of farmland for sale right now but if anything farmers should protest the fact it's too expensive for them to buy.

"There's 16,000 acres of farmland up for sale right now by a big landowner and nobody is saying anything about that," said Dean Okimoto, referring to the Dole Cannery property.  "Their concerns should be to get these farmers and to get land that is up for sale right now and keep that land in agriculture."

The Save Oahu Farmlands Alliance will have a rally and food festival this Saturday at Kakaako Waterfront Park from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm.  The group will testify before the Land Use Commission late next week trying to get it to deny the project.  The Commission could make a decision on the project later this year.

To learn more about the Ho'opili project click here.

To learn more about the Save Oahu Farmlands Alliance click here.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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