Hawaii's no place to look for work on the water

Water Ways
Honolulu Star Bulletin (3/07/98)
By Ray Pendleton

Having my e-mail address posted at the end of this column has made for some interesting comments from readers over the past several years.

Sometimes readers wanted to know more about some subject I had written about, or they wanted to pass on their knowledge about it. Other times, they wrote just to agree or disagree with whatever stance I had taken on a subject.

Fortunately, very few readers have chosen to attack me personally. One did go so far as to insinuate that I was being bribed to write in favor of marina privatization. I assured him I come up with this stuff all on my own, but I did appreciate anyone thinking my words were that influential.

A recent e-mail message was a bit of a surprise as it came from someone living on the mainland. The writer had seen Water Ways posted on the Internet (http://holoholo.org/waterway/for you web masters) and was curious about marine-oriented job opportunities in Hawai`i.

The following open letter is my answer - and as always, it is just my opinion.

Aloha Jack: If you are looking for steady employment or business opportunities in the recreational boating industry, Hawai`i would be the last place I would consider.

Oh, I know what you're thinking: How can that be when the whole state looks like a boater's paradise, with tropical islands, steady winds and warm seas?

Well Jack, it has to do with the lack of boating facilities, and hence, the lack of boat owners. Did you know there are more registered boats in Wyoming?

Unlike, say, the islands of Tahiti, where their surrounding coral reefs provide boaters with free protection from the open ocean, Hawaii's islands have very few natural bays or lagoons. And the few that do exist - Pearl Harbor, Honolulu Harbor, etc. - have been claimed and are jealously guarded by military or commercial interests.

O`ahu's most Tahiti-like lagoon - Kaneohe Bay - is now under strengthened environmental protection, so there is little likelihood of any recreational boating expansion there.

Even the famous developer Henry Kaiser didn't do much in providing boating facilities when he created the waterfront community of Hawaii Kai 30 years ago. The waterways are little more than Venice-like canals and the ocean access is shallow and under a low bridge.

That leaves most recreational boaters with the state-created, maintained and operated "small boat harbors," and a handful of private clubs and marinas.

With few exceptions, the facilities and amenities provided by the state would be considered barely marginal by mainland standards, and worse, I don't see things changing anytime soon.

The state blocks the private sector's efforts to construct new boating facilities - most recently, the Ewa Marina project - with a permitting process that becomes a de facto denial. So the catch is, private enterprise can't build its own marinas and it can't lease from the state.

I think government can provide the basics, but it takes the competition, innovation and capital of the private sector to stimulate growth and go beyond the status quo.

And so, Jack, until Hawaii's leaders figure out that more revenue can be generated from renovation and growth than stagnation - and that the state should be a landlord rather than a business owner - I'd have to say, have you checked out Iowa?

Good luck,

Last week's Column -|- More Water Ways

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