Legislation seeking to create a quasi-independent agency to manage Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve was shelved by a Honolulu City Council committee Tuesday to allow the Parks and Recreation Department time to provide specific financial information to Council members and others who want to know where up to $6 million in annual revenue from the popular attraction is being used.
The nonprofit Friends of Hanauma Bay has for years been frustrated by the lack of transparency about the fund and said $6 million collected from entry fees, parking and concessions is being used to fund other parks rather than make needed improvements at the nature preserve.
The city began charging fees to enter the nature preserve and upper bay parking lot in 1996, and set up the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve Fund for money collected to be used exclusively for the facility. A federal judge, while shooting down a constitutional challenge to the fee, ordered that $3 million in funds used to pay for maintenance and services at other park facilities be repaid to the fund.
The Council Executive Matters and Legislative Affairs Committee deferred Resolution 14-192, which urges Mayor Kirk Caldwell to set up a semiautonomous panel to oversee Hanauma Bay after receiving assurances from Parks and Recreation Director Michele Nekota that she intends to find the financial paper trail of the Hanauma Bay funds.