Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, wants to build a dairy farm on the island of Kauai to decrease the island-state’s heavy reliance on imported milk. But some residents and resort owners have worked to block the project.
KAUAI, Hawaii — If Pierre Omidyar gets his way, 699 dairy cows will soon enjoy a glorious view of the Pacific Ocean, framed by a pristine beach.
Omidyar, the founder of eBay, wants to build a dairy farm on the island of Kauai.
He is one of many tech billionaires who have established a presence in Hawaii, which is only a five-hour flight from Silicon Valley. Others include Larry Ellison, Oracle’s co-founder, who bought all but a tiny amount of the island of Lanai and turned it into a resort — investing millions, but frustrating some islanders by driving up rents — and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who was called a “neocolonialist” after he sued some locals over beachfront land he bought. (He dropped the suits.)
The goal of Omidyar’s farm — which incidentally is on land owned by the family of Steve Case, another tech billionaire — is to decrease the island-state’s heavy reliance on imported milk, while using sustainable agriculture practices. (The dairy will nonetheless still have to import feed for its animals.)
Some residents, though, object. They and the owners of the major resorts that line this island’s famous beaches, just a little more than 1 mile down the coastline from the dairy site, have worked to block the project.
“We are concerned with odors and flies from the dairy,” said Lisa Munger, a lawyer who represents the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, which successfully sued to force the dairy to do an environmental assessment. “Each dairy cow will produce 90.8 pounds of manure per day — whether there are 699 cows or 2,000 cows, that is a lot of manure.”
Munger said biting flies can reach the Grand Hyatt, along with “offensive dairy odors.”
Opponents of the Hawaii Dairy drive around with bumper stickers — “No Moo Poo in Maha’ulepu,” as the area of the island where the dairy would go is known — summarizing their main cause of concern: that animal waste could contaminate drinking water or the oceanfront and cause unpleasant smells.
“We’re all for local agriculture, but why put a dairy there?” said Bridget Hammerquist, a lawyer and the president of Friends of Maha’ulepu, a nonprofit set up to fight the dairy. “It’s a serious threat…