The saying “Kalo Pa‘a o Waiāhole” (Hard Taro of Waiāhole) is a metaphor for this famously tenacious Windward O‘ahu community, who resisted eviction for land development in the 1970s, then led the charge in the 1990s to restore flows to Waiāhole, Waianu, Waikāne, and Kahana Streams and Kāne‘ohe Bay after a century of diversions for the plantation on the leeward O‘ahu plain.
In the Waiāhole water case, the community fought an epic legal battle against the largest legacy landowners and government powers in the state. In 2000, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court issued its monumental decision reaffirming that water is a public trust and reversing the Water Commission for inadequately restoring streamflows. When the Commission still resisted the Court’s directions, the community appealed again and won another decision in 2004.
The Waiāhole case achieved the first-ever restoration of streamflows formerly diverted by plantations in Hawai‘i. And the landmark court rulings in the case are recognized in the nation and world as leading precedent on the public trust doctrine—the fundamental legal principle that natural resources like water are held in trust for the benefit of all, including future generations.