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Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken

Maui businesses are suffering under new rules.

July 14, 2009
Commentary contributed by Maury King · Kīhei
How does our government work, anyway? In just the last three years, I’ve seen several industries that weren’t broken being “fixed” in a way that seems to have horrendous results for the local economy and the idea of keeping money circulating on Maui and creating local jobs.

The vacation rental business has been “slashed and burned.” That cost us a whole class of tourists that don’t prefer to stay in a hotel, and cost us all the meals, activities and other purchases they might participate in, as well as jobs for the local people working to service and maintain the units. And after finally coming up with a plan for short-term rental units, a new tax shoots the whole thing in the foot for many people. Of course, the owners that lost their properties already due to loss of income won’t be affected by the new rules. They’re gone.

The wedding business: What was wrong with the way that industry operated? It seemed to work just fine and made Maui a great choice for people to get married, along with all the friends and family that would travel here and contribute to the local economy. Then, new rules were introduced in a most confusing manner, with permits required for each and every ceremony. Even worse, the national press appeared, suggesting this wasn’t an easy place to get married anymore, and that industry suffered.

And now, beach activity businesses. A new set of rules is being proposed that is intended to protect the reefs from the scuba industry. The reasoning (including consultants hired to review the process that supposedly never even talked to any of the business operators that would be affected) and the end result of this debacle just seem so wrong-headed. How were these conclusions arrived at for something that is currently a non-issue? The new rules will turn into overcrowding at certain beaches at certain times, but will put many operators stone-cold out of business. The dive industry says they not only don’t hurt the reefs, but teach people how to protect the reefs. The reefs are the “fishiest” and healthiest in the reserves like Honolua Bay and ‘Ahihi-Kina‘u, visited by thousands of divers and snorkelers, but no fishing is allowed. And with all dive instructors trained in first aid, it is like having extra free help on the beaches in case of accidents.

I can’t wait to see the next thing government decides to “fix” around here. (Just kidding.)

I’m coming to visit our local politicians to learn more about the way things work around here and find out where the “our” is in our government. Who wants the first appointment?


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