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Thieves steal equipment and truck from Kaneohe nonprofit

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Thieves took more than $5,000 worth of farm equipment and a truck over the weekend from a taro restoration project in the Heeia wetlands.

Mahealani Cypher, spokeswoman for the nonprofit organization Kao’o Oiwi, said this morning said that chain saws, weed whackers, water pumps, tools and 20-by-40 foot tent were stolen either late Saturday night or early yesterday morning.

Workings arriving at the 400-acre site at 11 a.m. Sunday discovered the security gate off Kamehameha Highway was broken, Cypher said. The thieves also used blowtorches to open locked containers. A donated green Chevy pickup truck is also missing, Cypher said.

The 400-acre taro patch is leased for 38 years from the Hawaii Community Development Authority which partners with Nature Conservancy and Ko’olaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club to restore the land. The project, located a mile past Windward Mall, is called Mahuahua Ai o Hoi.

Cypher said taro plants ready to be harvested for poi were taken a few weeks ago from the mauka side of the property which is accessible from Kahekili Highway.

"We didn’t report it then," she added, "because we thought people took it because they needed food."

"This is a really tough blow to all of us working on this project," said Kanekoa Kukea-Shultz, executive director of Kako’o Oiwi. "We have many volunteers who have put in long hours of hard work to clear this acreage and plant taro for the community."

The restoration project is aimed at repairing environmental damage and replacing alien vegetation with native plants and food crops on the former Kamehameha Schools land once targeted for urban development, Cypher said.


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