HILO — The state plans to take over maintenance of the statue of King Kamehameha the Great, which has been cared for by a North Kohala community group since 1883.
The vividly painted 9-foot-tall statue stands in Kapaau, near the birthplace of the Hawaiian king who unified the islands and created the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Every decade, the statue requires repainting and care to prevent “bronze disease,” a form of rapid corrosion induced by chlorides that come from the salt water of the ocean that can be very destructive if left untreated. Bronze disease not only causes the paint on the statue to deteriorate, it also causes cracks in the structure of the statue itself.
The property on which the statue sits was once owned by the state but is now owned by the county, leading to uncertainty about who is responsible for caring for it.
“It is unclear whether ownership of the statue transferred to the county, and as a result, the responsibility for maintenance of the statue is in dispute,” states county Resolution 601, scheduled to be heard by the County Council Finance Committee at 10:15 a.m. Tuesday. The meeting will be held at the West Hawaii Civic Center with videoconference to Hilo council chambers, the Waimea and Pahoa council offices, the Naalehu state office building and the old Kohala courthouse.
The resolution allows the state access to the site for maintenance.
State Rep. Cindy Evans, a Democrat representing North Kona, North Kohala and South Kohala, has been trying for years to get the state to pay the $40,000 or so needed to evaluate and maintain the statue. Her legislative resolution last year requiring the state Department of Accounting and General Services to maintain, preserve and protect the statue was unsuccessful, so she continued working behind the scenes.
Her efforts are finally reaching fruition.
“We’ve got it solved,” Evans said. “I got everybody in the same room …. and we didn’t let it go until we found an answer.”
Christine Richardson, executive director of the North Kohala Community Resource Center, said state funding will be a big relief after the community has worked so hard to pay for regular maintenance of the statue. The center supports the community by helping them raise money for statue maintenance.
“The community, with nickels and dimes — with more than nickels and dimes — has long raised money to help care for the statue,” Richardson said.