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Thousands of Volunteers Work Together to Fix Pani Ka Puka

Fixing a fishpond is a team effort.


Photo: olivier koning


It was an event not seen in Hawai‘i for about 200 years.


Nearly 2,000 people from across the Pacific turned out at He‘eia Fishpond one bright Saturday morning in December to form a human chain, passing buckets of rocks and corals to fill an 80-foot hole in the kuapā (fishpond wall). It was the final push in the yearlong Pani Ka Puka campaign, which raised more than $100,000 for materials and labor by the nonprofit Paepae O He‘eia to fix and restore the 800-year-old loko i‘o kuapā (walled fishpond) in Kāne‘ohe Bay.


The one-day event brought together the community, from families to schools to hula hālau to organizations that included Hawaiian Airlines, Kamehameha Schools, Waipā Foundation on Kaua‘i, The Nature Conservancy, Kāko‘o ‘Ōiwi and The Kohala Center on Hawai‘i Island. Even Gov. David Ige was there.


Paul Balazs, a Kaiser High teacher, brought 10 of his students to help. Though it was their first time to the fishpond, they all eagerly joined the other volunteers who passed plastic, five-gallon buckets filled with rocks 2,000 feet from the mauka edge of the fishpond all the way to the puka on the far end.


“Personally, I preach all the time about activism and supporting the community in which you live,” Balazs says. “I have to show (that) through example. All teachers should. All people should.”


But the restoration work isn’t done yet.


“While this was a huge occasion and milestone completed, the fishpond is by no means complete,” says Keli‘i Kotubetey, one of the nonprofit’s founders and assistant executive director, noting invasive mangrove that still needs to be removed and other parts of the wall that need rebuilding. “But right now, we’re enjoying this moment and simply reflecting on the power of family, community and aloha ‘āina.”


To help visit paepaeoheeia.org




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