Governor Abercrombie Restores Agriculture Inspector Positions Lost in 2009

From the Governor’s Office:

Governor Neil Abercrombie approved the hiring of 10 agricultural inspectors, restoring some positions that were eliminated in 2009. The 10 positions will increase the level of inspections of produce and agricultural material and decrease inspection delays at Honolulu International Airport.

“Reinstating our agricultural inspectors was a key element of the New Day Plan and its promise to protect the environment, grow more of our own food, and restore a strong economy in Hawai’i,” said Governor Abercrombie.

With the restored inspector positions, the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture’s (HDOA) Plant Quarantine Branch will:

  • Increase inspection coverage at Honolulu International Airport, which is the highest-risk entry point for invasive species
  • Increase inspection of cargo moving interisland
  • Decrease the amount of overtime that importers are paying for after-hours cargo inspection
  • Allow for time to concentrate on processing import permits for vital bioenergy and research projects
  • Potentially re-establish the detector dog program

Governor Abercrombie also signed into law House Bill 1568, now Act 202, which directs the Department of Transportation and HDOA to begin the design and construction of biosecurity inspection facilities at airports and harbors.  These inspection facilities will allow HDOA and federal inspection authorities to perform their inspection tasks more efficiently and safely.

“Investing in our agricultural inspection activities to prevent the introduction of invasive species will save the state money in the long run,” said Russell S. Kokubun, Chairperson of the Hawai’i Board of Agriculture.  “Restoring agricultural inspection positions and the construction of new biosecurity inspection facilities will greatly improve our ability to protect our environment from the irreparable harm of outside threats.”

Prior to  layoffs in 2009, there were 95 plant quarantine inspectors statewide, covering all domestic maritime and air cargo inspections and handling import permits for regulated plants, animals and microorganisms.  Currently, there are only 50 agricultural inspectors statewide.

“The more eyes you have looking, the more invasive species you’re going to find and prevent from entering our environment,” said Carol Okada, Manager of the Plant Quarantine Branch. “One of our main priorities is to get our inspectors back on the job while we continue to search for others ways to boost our inspection services.”

The following table depicts the number of inspectors prior to the layoff and the current number statewide:

 Gov Restores Ag Inspector Positions Press Conf 1

The following Plant Quarantine data shows the number of interceptions at airports during the six-month period prior to the layoffs in 2009 and for the same period in 2010.  The interception rate dropped by half statewide and by 762 percent on O’ahu.

 

Gov Restores Ag Inspector Positions Press Conf 2

HDOA will be using a “recall list” to bring back former agricultural inspectors. The positions will be funded by the Pest Inspection Quarantine and Eradication Special Fund, which cargo importers pay into based on cargo weight.  The branch hopes to complete the rehiring procedures as soon as possible and have the inspectors back on the inspection teams.

The enactment of HB 1568 helps to lay the groundwork for the construction of inspection facilities at Honolulu International Airport and Honolulu Harbor to aid agricultural inspectors.  New inspection facilities will concentrate inspection activities in an enclosed, secured and temperature-controlled area.  This will make inspections more efficient by bringing the cargo to the inspection building rather than having inspectors go out to the individual cargo and shipping areas.  The building would also be able to better contain any pest or pathogen that may hitchhike on agricultural material. In addition, it will help increase food safety as cargo will not be exposed to daylight during inspection or while waiting for inspection.

An inspection facility was built several years ago at Kahului Airport as a requirement of the Kahului Airport Expansion Project.

18 Year Old Dies in Car Wreck in Waimea

Media Release:

An 18-year-old Waimea man died Wednesday (July 13) from injuries he sustained in a one-vehicle crash on Saturday (July 9) on Māmalahoa Highway (Route 19) .1 mile east of the 55-mile marker in Waimea.

The victim was identified as Grayson E. K. W. Andaya of a Kamuela address.

Responding to a 4:32 a.m. call, South Kohala patrol officers determined that the victim was operating a 2002 Toyota four-door sedan and traveling east on Māmalahoa Highway when he ran off the right side of the road and struck a utility pole and wire fence.

Fire Rescue personnel extricated the victim and took him to North Hawai’i Community Hospital. He was later flown to The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu in critical condition.

The victim was wearing a seat belt.

It is unknown at this time if speed was involved but police believe that alcohol was a factor in this crash.

Traffic Enforcement Unit officers have initiated a coroner’s inquest case and have ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death.

The name of the victim is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.

This is the 12th traffic fatality on the Big Island this year compared with 18 at the same time last year.

A Message of Sorrow From the Director of “Get A Job” on Friend and Cast Member Charles Ka’upu

It is with great sadness I share the loss of friend and cast member Charles Ka’upu.

Brian Kohne with Kumu Charles Ka'upu.

Many of you who were on set day-one will remember the special blessing of the project he performed – I was so moved and comforted by his words in those moments that despite the obstacles we were to face, all apprehension and fear in me was alleviated. His presence and divinity was felt throughout the production, and I for one will never forget being moved, entertained, and comforted by this great Hawaiian through the years.
He also performed the most amazing and magical blessing of Malama Pono Productions in 2005 A “Dedicated To The Memory…” message and photo will be created and placed at the end of “Get A Job,” so that in our own small way the production will keep alive his memory, and honor his deep contribution to our movie.
We will post additional information on the Get a Job Facebook page with respect to further honoring of Charles Ka’upu, who forever will remain alive in our hearts and minds, and onscreen with a special poignant brilliance.
Charles, we love you…
Brian Kohne
[slideshow]

Big Island Police to Get K-9 to Help With Missing Persons

Media Release:

Police Chief Harry Kubojiri is happy to announce that Big Island police will soon have another valuable tool in locating missing persons. The Friends of the Missing Child Center of Hawai’i is graciously donating a scent-discriminating tracking dog to the police department.

The male Labrador named Magnum was purchased through a grant that the non-profit organization was able to secure from the Atherton Foundation. During his training in North Carolina, Magnum was already credited with finding a missing person.

The dog arrived in the state last week and has been housed at the Honolulu Police Department’s training and canine facility in Waipahu. He is scheduled to arrive in Kona on Thursday (July 14th).

Chief Kubojiri said the Police Department anxiously awaits Magnum’s arrival. “While, thankfully, it’s rare that a child goes missing in our community, we must remain prepared for such a tragic event,” he said. “Since Tucker’s retirement more than three years ago, we have been without such an asset in West Hawai’i.”

Wordless Wednesday – Elf Love

Elf Love