HONOLULU (KHON2) — Tens of thousands of visitors continue to fly into the islands each day as the state records its highest COVID-19 daily case counts since the pandemic began.
On Sunday, the state recorded its fourth day of case numbers above 600.
Also on Sunday, a large group of mostly Native Hawaiians gathered at Laniakea, to educate visitors, and to tell state leaders they are prioritizing tourism over island residents.
The gridlock at Laniakea has been an issue on Oahu’s North Shore for nearly two decades and there is still no fix.
In 2020, North Shore residents could drive freely between Waialua and Sunset without worrying about traffic, but the increase in tourism has put the issue in the spotlight once again and videos of tourists harassing turtles have surfaced.
Residents say officials aren’t doing anything to address the mounting tourism issues.
“Locals and kanaka maoli are being told to stop gathering, our keiki sports are canceled, while luaus for hundreds of unmasked visitors are taking place every night, nothing is sacred with the tourist industry and Hawaii has become a playground to visitors,” said Ka Lahui Hawaii member Healani Sonoda-Pale.
“Education is not promoted at all, and it needs to be revisited on how to effectively educate the visitors as they come to visit us,” said North Shore Neighborhood Board vice-chair Racquel Achiu-Hill.
“Overtourism is a real thing, it is a very real thing, and we’re tired of being put second,” she continued.
North Shore residents plan their day around the turtle traffic while thousands of visitors visit the area daily. Some come in tour busses which are not supposed to stop at Laniakea.
“Have the tour guides educate them when they’re coming on the tour busses [to the North Shore], we see a lot of the tour busses come here, offload the people, and it’s clear the tourists don’t know, they go on the rocks, they fall, they also step on the rocks and kill the limu which is the honu’s food,” explained Da Hui O Hee Nalu member Mahina Chillingworth.
From signs, handouts, even draping lei to prevent tourists from crowding the area honu rest, residents spent the day educating people driving by.
“We’re asking tourists to take a pledge which is asking visitors to respect this place for the sake of our children because we need to protect it, and that’s what it’s all about, it’s all about our kids,” said Sonoda-Pale.
“They need to understand that when they come here, this is not a playground for them to do whatever they want to do, this is our home,” she continued.
In regards to tour busses at Laniakea, the City Department of Transportation Services said in a statement several weeks ago: “Tour buses should not be stopping in areas where it is dangerous to use the highway. At Laniakea, there are No Parking signs that prohibit bus loading/unloading in the area”
As for solutions to the traffic situation, the state department of transportation said:
“HDOT has returned comments on the City and County of Honolulu’s plan for an interim solution at Laniakea Beach and continues to work with the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Design and Construction on a solution to improve safety for this stretch of Kamehameha Highway. HDOT will provide notice before any roadwork is done at this site.
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Concurrently, we continue to work through the environmental process for the realignment of Kamehameha Highway at Laniakea Beach. The draft Environmental Assessment for this project will be published later this month.”