WAINIHA — An unidentified man took a backhoe to a taro patch in northern Kauai, damaging a staple of the traditional Hawaiian diet, a local food supply and an attached water line affecting water service in the region, authorities said.
The Kauai Police Department has yet to find the man accused of property damage in Wainiha earlier this week, the Garden Island reported.
No citations or arrests have been made yet, and water service has since been restored to affected residents, police said.
Witnesses told police they saw a man taking down the fence and tearing up dirt and plants on the property using a backhoe Tuesday.
This is the first time the taro patch has been damaged since a land debate conflict was settled in court over the property, property manager Kaimi Hermosura said.
“Yesterday the area was pillaged, even though this matter has been dismissed,” Hermosura told the Garden Island. “During these times of need, during this pandemic, our neighborhood and our families and friends were looking forward to harvesting and taking food from the land here, so it’s been a low blow.”
Hermosura inherited the parcel through his Native Hawaiian heritage and has cared for the taro, sweet potatoes, coconuts and bananas on the land, he said, adding that some of those plants were also destroyed.
“In the current state of the world right now, we are in a pandemic, an individual chose to take machinery and impulsively without thought and concern decided to destroy a personal farm on sovereign land,” resident Joe Davis said.
He added: “The food was to be used for community members. There was a great deal of food on this property that was destroyed.”
Davis is a part of Konohiki Restoration Project, an advocacy organization intended to fight for the interests of Native Hawaiian families and watershed management. The organization was started by Hermosura.