Maui measure that monitors bright lights to protect wildlife moves forward

WAILUKU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Maui County Council is introducing legislation to curb bright lights that harm wildlife.

Critics say the measure wrongly targets the visitor industry.

“The fact that special events with temporary lighting can take place in various outdoor locations, other than hotel properties, is highly punishable,” said Lisa Paulson, executive director of the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association.

The council wants to call for a specific type of light that protects native Hawaiian seabirds and turtles from becoming disoriented. Light should limit shortwave light to no more than two percent of blue light and be directed downwards and fully shielded.

“Over 1,000 seabirds are lost each year. Those are just the ones we can find. I don’t have data on how many of them don’t survive,” said Jeff Bagshaw of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Department of Forestry and Wildlife.

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The proposal also allows for full illumination of many nocturnal activities, such as Obon festivals, community service events, sporting events, and special events on state, county, and private properties. However, it does not apply to special events taking place outdoors in hotels and other temporary accommodation.

“Promoting special events on hotel properties would not only be unfair, but also detrimental to all events associated with our number one economy… from concerts to the luaus,” said events technologist Neldon Mamuad.

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“I’m amazed people think a seabird can tell, oh this is a charitable event so the light is fine. This is a paid event where I will crash. It’s bizarre,” said Kalani Rodrigues of Hawaii Stage and Lighting.

The measure was passed at eight o’clock on Tuesday afternoon.

Council member Yuki Sugimura was the only vote against.

“It’s a good thing to save wildlife and turtles and everything else we care about for the future. I just want to say please take care of the people who can’t afford this change,” she said.

Supporters of the bill say there is a small price to pay.

“Human health is also affected by the effects of light pollution,” said Jay Penniman.

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“There seems to be a lot of need, but there are so many in the community that aren’t getting it,” said Mike Moran of the Kihei Community Association.

“If we are to move forward with respect for the Aina, respect for our ecosystems, we must find a way to live together and not put our commercial needs first,” said Councilor Kelly King.

The Council will vote again on the measure. If passed, it will come into force in July.

Everyone has three years to comply with the new legal regulations.

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