In 2019, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority shifted its priorities from increasing visitor arrivals to improving the visitor experience, while supporting the quality of life for residents. Through HTA’s Aloha ʻĀina program, 28 nonprofit and government agencies were given funding for programs to help protect Hawaiʻi’s natural resources. Through its Kūkula Ola program, the authority has funded 28 programs this year and committed to fund 43 more programs in 2020 that perpetuate Hawaiian culture.
And while we are on the subject of Native Hawaiian culture, I want to speak on the Thirty Meter Telescope and Mauna Kea. Emotions have run high on both sides. The arguments are strong on both sides, and that’s what makes the situation so difficult. But I truly believe it can be resolved, if we put our heads and our hearts together. There are some who have encouraged me to take strong measures against those who are protesting on Mauna Kea. That would have been the easier course. But it is not just the authority of the law that is at stake. What is also at risk is the glue that has always bound us together: our sense of aloha. It is the thing that underpins our laws and gives them meaning and an ethical foundation. That trust in each other is also sacred. And I will not break that bond, no matter how convenient or easy.
At the heart of our dilemma is both the history of wayfinding and discovery and the future of wayfinding and discovery. If we have lost our way, we must find our way back. To do this, we must be open-hearted, as well as open-minded. We must listen, as well as speak with conviction, and we must have aloha for each other, in spite of our differences. I ask all to join me in continuing to look for a way forward. I stand ready to work with any and everyone who refuses to let this issue divide us.