There was much talk about the sale of Lanai when we visited there in April on our American Safari Cruise. Residents would like to see a future that includes sustainability, employment, and agriculture.
Will the just announced sale to Lanai resident and Oracle founder, Larry Ellision revitalize this beautiful island? There’s much hope on island that Ellison will be the best landowner yet and help Lanai achieve prosperity.
Since 1985, Lanai has been 98% owned by David Murdoch who bought it during Dole’s Castle & Cooke’s bankruptcy. Dole had acquired the 3,000 resident, 141 square mile island in the early 1900′s to create the world’s largest pineapple plantation.
Of recent, the 89 year old Murdoch attempted unsuccessfully to stem losses by moving the island in the direction of an unpopular wind farm to produce electricity for power hungry neighbor Oahu. Murdoch has indicated he plans to retain his home on Lanai as well as his right to build the wind farm on up to 20 square miles and ship electricity to Honolulu via underwater cable.
Nearly 20 years ago Murdock stunned the island by terminating its primary source of employment, pineapple production, which has since moved to both central America and the Philippines. That left large scale unemployment, with the vast plantation acreage turned black and barren instead of its prior lush green appearance. Rather than agriculture, the parched island took another direction that resulted in the establishment of the Lodge at Koehle and Manele Bay properties, as well as development of expensive resort homes. None of these efforts has proved to be lucrative either and it’s been estimated that they have instead produced losses of up to $40 Million annually.
Visiting Lanai is a step back in time. The island features only 30 miles of paved roads, a small population, and 100k annual visitors. In addition to the two resorts and small Hotel Lanai, there are great opportunities for exploring its secluded beaches, diving and four-wheel driving. It’s just a short ferry ride from Maui yet a world away.
Our thoughts are with Lanai and its people at this time of transition.
Photograph above is of the five sisters dive spot on the far side of Lanai.