Gov. Neil Abercrombie gathered with representatives of several public agencies, business and non-profit organizations, and the military Tuesday to formally announce the purchase of more than 1,700 acres from the Estate of George Galbraith, preserving the former pineapple land for agricultural use.
"Hawaii currently imports about 85 percent of its food, but the purchase and protection of the Galbraith land for agricultural use will allow us to reduce our reliance on food imports and increase our food security, a priority of this administration," said Gov. Abercrombie.
Facilitated by the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit land conservation organization, the $25 million acquisition results in the state Department of Agriculture acquiring 1,207 acres and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs acquiring the remaining 495 acres, including culturally significant land.
Earlier this year, Gov. Abercrombie approved the release of $13 million for the prime ag land, which until 2004 was leased by Del Monte for growing pineapple and has since sat fallow. In addition to the state's funds, contributions toward the total purchase sum included $4.5 million from the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, $4 million from the City and County of Honolulu Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund, $3 million from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and $500,000 from D.R. Horton – Schuler Division.
"The Galbraith Estate land acquisition is a truly landmark accomplishment, proactively saving high-quality agricultural land for farming – land that seemed destined for the next large development," said Russell Kokubun, chairperson of the Board of Agriculture. "We are pleased to have played a role in keeping agricultural land productive for generations to come."
Many organizations and individuals made this project possible. The Trust for Public Land was essential in bringing all the parties together, negotiating with the Galbraith Estate, applying for the Army and City funding, working with OHA as a partner to the transaction, and raising the gap in funding through D.R. Horton.
"Rep. Marcus Oshiro as chair of the House Finance Committee had the foresight to set aside $13 million of a general obligation bond for this project years ago," Gov. Abercrombie said.
Joining the governor and Kokubun in making the announcement were Rep. Marcus Oshiro, Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii Commander Col. Daniel Whitney, City and County of Honolulu Managing Douglas Director Chin, Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairperson Colette Machado and CEO Dr. Kamanaopono Crabbe, D.R. Horton-Schuler Division President Mike Jones, The Trust for Public Land Chair Timothy Johns, and Agribusiness Development Corporation Executive Director Jimmy Nakatani.
The Agribusiness Development Corporation will begin preparing the land and installing necessary infrastructure to provide both large and small farming operations with long-term licenses, as well as make provisions for farmers on neighbor islands to potentially expand operations on Oahu.