Lahaina resident speaks on tourism and hope in West Maui

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A deadly wildfire tore through the historic town of Lahaina on Aug. 8; two months later, West Maui reopened for tourism, leaving some local residents and their families conflicted.

A team of students from BYU’s journalism program went to Maui to work on a documentary about the recovery and healing efforts on Maui after the fires.

Kaipo Kahaialii Rokobuludrau was born and raised in Lahaina, Maui and is one of many people who lost a home after the fire.

“So, we have lost our family home. It’s a multi-generational family home that we’ve had for over 50 years,” she said.

Rokobuludrau said 29 of her family members are displaced after the fire.

“So, right now, currently, they’re just kind of staggered throughout various locations throughout Lahaina and the west side, both in condos and hotels and some Airbnbs in the area,” Rokobuludrau said. “So, it’s very hard to have them kind of all just scattered throughout the west side.”

Rokobuludrau shared her thoughts on tourists being able to visit West Maui again.

“I think it’s really important that we have economic rebuild. You know, Maui definitely needs to have that income coming into the islands so that we can be sustainable here,” she said. “Although, even though I’m very pro-economic rebuild — definitely, 100% — I just don’t know, I just don’t feel that Lahaina is in the right space right now to accommodate the kind of traffic that they think that’s going to come into this area.”

Rokobuludrau encouraged people to come visit Maui but reminded visitors there are more parts to the island besides Lahaina.

“There’s a beautiful side on the south side of Kaanapali — I mean, sorry, Kihei — and Wailea, Haleakala and the other sides of the beautiful sides of the island, Hana,” Rokobuludrau said. “But the west side, I really feel it’s really important that they understand that this is almost like sacred ground for us who live here, and anybody who’s been to Lahaina and loves this area will understand that, you know, that that’s very, very special and that there’s a lot of healing that needs to still take place in this area.”

Speaking about her hopes for the future of Lahaina, Rokobuludrau mentioned faith and strength.

“My hope is for the people; the people who live here, the people who have not only just been affected, but have given the life to Lahaina as it is today. I hope that they find the strength and the faith to rebuild, to give Lahaina back its life,” Rokobuludrau said. “I only want good things for this area. This is my home. It’s always been.”

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