Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Following Hawaiian fires, Mayor Wayne Brown makes appeal for ‘favourite town outside NZ’

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Mayor Wayne Brown RNZ/Photo supplied
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown has appealed for help for the people of Lahaina on Maui, Hawai’i, which is facing devastation from raging wildfires that have so far claimed 36 lives.

The fires have also damaged hundreds of buildings and resulted in a large exodus from the popular tourist destination of Maui.

A keen surfer, Mayor Brown told PMN he’s been a regular to Lahaina (located in west Maui) over the years and considers the area like a second home. Since the wildfires broke out he’s been constantly checking in with many close friends from the community.

“I’ve been going up there for years, I’m almost a local on the surfing scene up there.”

The mayor is also asking for donations from members of the public who wish to help his “brothers and friends” in Maui.

“These sort of monetary donations are the best way for the public to help.”

His thoughts were with those actively involved in fighting the numerous wildfires, especially a close friend whose son is a firefighter.

“One of my closest friends, an older guy … his son is actually fighting the fire … he’s been working really hard at the moment.”

Footage beaming out from the out-of-control wildfires has stunned the world and Brown says the locals too were in a state of shock.

“They’re all shocked, it’s just hideous. But it’s a great loss to the world really, it’s a special place Lahaina. It’s not like the rest of Maui at all,” referring to the more modern part of the island with big concrete hotels built around golf courses.

He says the historical buildings in Lahaina, constructed from timber between 1900 – 1915 have been razed to the ground; these were also of the same period and style of Brown’s building in Mangōnui, Northland.

“Mangōnui and Lahaina are almost like sister villages, to the extent that both of them are old, [with] treasured old timber buildings on the waterfront, built at the time towards the end of the whaling industry.”

The loss of life was difficult to deal with as well as coming to terms with the realisation the historical area of Lahaina would be almost impossible to restore.

“You can’t sort of rebuild anything with the same manner as an old place like that.

“It’s not like a modern building that you can replicate, these old buildings are very hard to replicate … like sort of cardboard copies if you tried to rebuild it the way it was, because it had that old patina of age that you get.”

The mayor says Hawai’i was very similar to Aotearoa New Zealand given the close Polynesian ties between Hawaiians and Māori, given how welcoming the locals are and the way they observe tikanga.

He says these fires serve as a further a wake-up call for those who still doubt the seriousness of climate change.

“The world is exposed to some pretty heavy changes in the climate. I mean, last time I was there, they had an overnight rainstorm, very much like January the 27th.”

Yet just 12 months later, Lahaina was bone dry and burning, while Auckland is still dealing with the aftermath of record rainfalls.

“So we’re going to learn that we’ve had a terribly wet year this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised that we have droughts next year, things are getting bad. And they’ll wake up all those people who think that things aren’t changing, and realise we’ve got to do something.”

He says Kahului airport would be filled with tourists racing to leave Maui but for the locals their task once the situation was contained would be to rebuild.

“The people who live there have to stay and fix it and face the future. And we’ve learned that here as well. And Kahului airport will be full of people leaving … but there’ll also be people coming back to help.

“And you know, my friends up there are paramedics and firemen. That’s what they do. These are the people who are right in it. These are the people I know and love, and they love me, and they’ve treated me so well. I feel kind of part of them. And I know that, that if God forbid, we have ever fire like that, in any of our little towns … these people would come and help.”

The mayor will also be sharing the Hawaiian Salvation Army donation details across his social media channels https://twitter.com/MayorWayneBrown/status/1689429209301864448?s=20].

“If anyone wants to express a feeling for our brothers and sisters, that’s a good way to do it.”

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