POSTED: 13 JUNE 2007 - 9:30pm HST

TGI #6: Kauai District Proposal

image above: Kauai District Map. To download amore detailed tabloid sized PDF file click on image

[Editor's Note: Normally these columns are scheduled to appear every other Sunday.The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. The copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already]

Island Breath: Moku, Kalana & Ahupuaa
by Juan Wilson & Jonathan Jay published in TGI on 17 June 2007 

Revision 6.0-070613
special to the Garden Island News 2007 by Kauai Publishing


As colleagues we have been developing a base map to used for planning representing environmental regions of Kauai. Our goal is to respect the traditional Hawaiian system of Ahupuaa and bring a time-tested perspective to today’s effort of land management and governance.
In researching historic maps of Kauai we have found differing evidence of what was the "Hawaiian Way". After some study, we realized that (like an onion) there are several nested layers of organization to the Hawaiian system:

Hawaii Nei - The entire inhabited island group
Mokupuni - The island groups (like our current county system)
Moku - The major districts of each individual island
Kalana - The significant divisions within each Moku
Ahupuaa - Individual watershed regions within each Kalana
Ili - functional subdivisions of an Ahupuaa

Today, convention lists five Moku regions of Kauai: Na Pali, Halelea, Koolau, Puna, and Kona. However, this was not always so. Maps from as far back as 1820 tell a different tale with as many as six Moku. Some maps from the later 1800’s and early 1900’s show as few as three. Evidently, there were either different understandings of what the districts were, and/or the districts changed with the political changes that have swept Hawaii. Perhaps when there was self-rule on Kauai, a greater understanding of our aina resulted in a greater diversity of regions, while external rulers, ‘consolidated’ for the purpose of ruling from afar.

map above: detail of Kauai in 1837 map by Kalama. For whole map and more of Hawaii visit

Also interesting is that the first map of Hawaii done by a Hawaiian, in 1837, shares a feature with several other early maps: the Moku districts do not extend “from makai to mauka” to meet at the center of the islands. They are mostly restricted to the coast. The central region of the island remains open and undelineated. In our last column we wrote about these mountainous interior regions as Kua, or God's country. Perhaps as in today's current forest conservation areas, this was considered a common area considered to be ‘out of bounds’.

map above: detail of Kauai in 1845 map by Charles Wilkes for U.S. mapping expedition

Although there are many differences with the details of Moku on Kauai, most maps consistently show four broadly descriptive district names: "Koolau" - which means "windward", "Puna" - which means "spring of water", “Kona” - means “leeward”, and Na Pali - that means “the cliffs”. By ‘broadly descriptive’ we mean that these region names are not exclusive to Kauai, but appear on more than one of the other Hawaiian Islands. Hawaiians quite simply “called 'em like they saw ’em” with the windward area of the island, being called: “Windward.” It is hard to argue with that.

Today Kauai is chopped up into Tax Map Key districts by the logic of the marketplace. With the TMK the main intent is to identify who owns the land and how to collect revenue from it. From a Hawaiian or environmental view, this is rather upside down – everything begins with the land.

For our map we started with the five Kauai Moku now widely accepted - Kona, Na Pali, Halelea, Koolau and Puna - and harmonize with the contemporary political and social realities.

Because “Kona” is almost half of the island, and "Puna" has almost half the population, we feel that they would each be better managed and represented if divided into smaller districts, or Kalana. Although there are no historic maps that show a division of Puna into Kalana, there are maps that show Kona divided either from Mana or the Koloa southside area: Hence the Kalana of Mana, Waimea and Koloa.

We chose the southern border of the Wailua watershed to divide Puna. It seems a logical place and there are no existing communities that would be split. The result, the Kalana of Kipu and Wailua. Of the eight districts, Na Pali is the only one virtually unpopulated, but all are reasonably sized and separate in their distinct environments:

These choices led us to design the map at the top of the article:

MOKU - Kalana          AREA POPULATION
NA PALI   32 sq miles      200 people
HALELEA   91 sq miles    4,000 people
KOOLAU   43 sq miles    7,000 people
PUNA Wailua   80 sq miles    6,000 people
PUNA Kipu   56 sq miles  13,000 people
KONA Koloa   41 sq miles  10,500 people
KONA Waimea 149 sq miles  12,000 people
KONA Mana   63 sq miles    2,500 people
TOTAL 555 sq miles 65,200 people

Looking to how the Hawaiians managed the land will be increasingly useful as we strive for a self-sufficient sustainable life on Kauai. If the people of Kauai keep a seven person County Council to manage the island, these seven populated districts could be the basis of Council representation, with Na Pali as a commonwealth area, shared by all. Future governance may even be by an Ahupuaa Legislature representing the many individual watershed based communities of Kauai.

We are not saying our suggestion is a "final answer" - it is an interpretation. Any new way of looking at Hawaiian tradition and county government will likely create turmoil. But look at them we must. Our hope is that a new and vital discussion begins, and that the aina be a part of it.

We will be posting an evaluation map of Kauai environmental districts and more detail on the smaller Ahupuaa, as well as regional community centers on the website.

The Garden Island News Column Menu Listing of all "Island Breath" articles submitted to TGI

Cross Section: Mauka to Makai 5/20/07 There are places we belong and those we should leave to god

27 June 2007 - 7:30pm HST

TGI Article #7: Planning by Townships Another strategy to improve the quality of life on Kauai