The Maui News - Mayor Alan Arakawa asked legislators on Wednesday, Jan. 15, the opening day of the Legislature at the state capitol on O'ahu, for more agriculture inspectors to help combat the Little Fire Ant, a stealthy invasive species confirmed to have made its way from Hawai'i Island to Maui and O'ahu late last year. He also asked for support to allow counties to add a surcharge of up to 1 percent to the state general excise tax to allow for counties to take in more money.
"The other day, someone said that if 2013 was the year of the shark, 2014 may be the year of the ant," Arakawa said, alluding to the eight shark attacks in Maui waters last year and the discovery of the invasive ants in shipments of Hawaiian tree ferns, called hapu'u.
Arakawa said that if not quickly dealt with, the invasive stinging ant will do harm to the economy, environment and human health.
Currently, there are seven agricultural inspectors on Maui. Before state budget reductions in 2009, there were 17 inspectors.
Arakawa is asking Gov. Neil Abercrombie to support his request for more inspectors for Maui County. At least one inspector would be for Maui and another for Molokai.
While the need for more inspectors is mostly to halt and manage invasive species such as fire ants, the personnel also would assist in enforcement if a pending county bill becomes law and regulates pesticides and genetically modified organisms by commercial agricultural companies.