Fern Holland begins second campaign for Kauaʻi County Council

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Fern Ānuenue Holland has officially launched her 2024 campaign for a seat on the Kauaʻi County Council, outlining a candidacy that would prioritize affordable housing, agriculture production, drug rehabilitation, and tourism management during a discussion at her first fundraising event at Anahola Marketplace earlier this week.

Kauaʻi County Council Candidate Fern Ānuenue Holland, right, was helped by Joelle Edwards, center, and Paulina Ann of Thyme Culinary Market, left, who made and sold burritos during her fundraising event on May 16, 2024. (Emma Grunwald / Kauaʻi Now)

“I’m doing this for our community. I love our community. I love our environment. I love Kauaʻi. Itʻs my home. And if I can help, I want to step forward and help,” Holland said.

Holland, who is the food systems director for the nonprofit Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action, is an outspoken activist and organizer in the community. She has also gained visibility for her role as a leading member of I Ola Wailuanui, a group against the reconstruction of the Coco Palms Hotel.

Holland and a couple of supportive friends sold about $650 worth of burritos in their grassroots efforts to raise money for the campaign on Thursday morning, May 16. “We have 50 burritos,” Holland joked when asked about her fundraising goals. 

The event marked Holland’s second bid to serve as a council member. She first ran for Kauaʻi County Council in 2022, finishing in ninth place with a total of seven spots available, behind eighth-place finisher and current council member Ross Kagawa. 

“Everybody says you never win the first time,” Holland said. With her campaign banners up all around the east side of the island, Holland noted already being ahead of where she was during her previous effort two years ago. “Last time at this point, I was still fundraising for my first banners,” she said.


“Obviously, the incumbents have more name recognition and public face recognition. But I already have the banners. I’ve been working hard to get them up early,” she said, noting she also made an effort to avoid plastic road signs due to Kaua’i’s expanding landfill, which is expected to reach maximum capacity in about three years. “I’m really concerned about the landfill issue,” Holland said.

Holland is also a board member of I Ola Wailuanui, a nonprofit group against the reconstruction of the Coco Palms Hotel in Wailua, largely for environmental and cultural reasons. Holland was seen handing out stickers in support of her group’s message ahead of a community meeting on Oct. 18, 2023. (Emma Grunwald / Kauaʻi Now)

Holland expressed confidence in addressing the landfill crisis and other environmental concerns, citing her educational background and activism work. 

Originally from the East Side of Kaua’i, Holland graduated from Kapa’a High School in 2002. Holding dual U.S.-Australian citizenship through her father, she then went on to attend Griffith University on the Gold Coast, where she triple majored in environmental science, wildlife management, and marine biology. 

After graduating, Holland worked as an environmental consultant with consulting firm GHD for about two and a half years. However, she described feeling conflicted about projects that didn’t align with her values, such as fracking and the transportation of liquid natural gas to China.  “I just wanted to use my education in an applied way to better the environment,” Holland said. The realization led her to decide to return to Kaua’i in 2012 and begin working in political activism.

 Holland noted working with then Kauaʻi County Councilman Gary Hooser on Bill 2491, or Ordinance 960, beginning in 2013, which aimed to require biotech companies to disclose pesticide use and regulate genetically modified organisms. 


 “It became this huge controversial, massive county bill that was way bigger than anything I’d ever expected it to be,” Holland said. “It seems so basic to me, and it was actually so bold and the chemical corporations fought us so hard.” 

Holland said the bill led to misconceptions of her being seen as a “radical hippie” trying to stop local agriculture when in reality, she wants the exact opposite.

“At the time, the corporations, which they do around the world, manipulated the conversation and really transformed it into being something that made us look like we were just ant-ag. and anti-locals, and a bunch of white people from the North Shore. I’m actually from Kapahi so that still annoys me,” she said.

Holland’s views on the issue are featured in the 2016 documentary Poisoning Paradise, produced by Pierce Brosnan, which investigated the impacts of pesticides and GMOs in Hawai’i. That same year, Holland ran as a Democratic candidate for State House District 14, now known as District 15, comprising east and north Kaua’i.

Holland, center right, attended a community meeting held by the developer of the Coco Palms Hotel on Oct. 18, 2023. She is pictured hearing from developer Reef Capital Partner’s Chief Financial Officer Jon Day, left, alongside community members with opposing views. (Emma Grunwald / Kauaʻi Now)

During her renewed political campaign, Holland is hoping to connect with more people on the West Side, where she says she is less known and less understood. 


“There’s a lot of people who were scared of me because of the (Bill) 2491 thing,” she said. “And then once they got to meet me and talk story with me, they realized, oh sheʻs not this radical.”

Holland emphasized the desire to increase agriculture production to build a community less dependent on tourism, focusing on regenerative agriculture, pesticide issues, and food security, with efforts including lobbying at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol through her role with the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action.

Her other main priorities include creating more affordable housing and addressing the cost of living. “Helping to keep local families here on Kauaʻi is a priority of mine,” she said. 

Holland, left, joined other advocates in asking lawmakers to purchase the Courtyards at Waipouli Apartments in Kapaʻa for affordable housing during a press conference held by the Hawai‘i Budget and Policy Center nearly a year ago, on May 31, 2023.
(Emma Grunwald / Kaua’i Now)

She also aims to tackle drug abuse and addiction prevention by working to increase on-island rehabilitation treatment options. She noted a personal connection to the crisis, stating that,  like many others on the island, she has lost loved ones to addiction.

“I’m really passionate about helping to address the drug problem that we have on Kauaʻi and wherever the county can fill that role, like helping to create rehabilitation and treatment centers,” she said. “That’s something I’m committed to and care very much about.”

Regarding tourism, Holland discussed a need for the better management of areas that have become increasingly popular with tourists, such as Hoopi’i Falls in Kapa’a, where finding parking on the residential, dead-end road can be a challenge. “We just want to see managed areas or places that aren’t just overly inundated,” she said, emphasizing the need for a delicate balance to prevent government closures. 

County Council Candidate Fern Ānuenue Holland, left, poses with friends during her burrito fundraiser at Anahola Marketplace on May 16, 2024. (Emma Grunwald / Kauaʻi Now)

Holland also noted a hope to reduce apathy, distrust, and lack of engagement with political processes, particularly among younger generations. She cited her approachability, commitment for transparency, and understanding of the community as motivators for putting herself forward as a candidate.

“I actually would rather be under a tree hiding, out of reception somewhere,” she said with a laugh.  “I’m not doing this for me.”

“I’m already embedded in the community and an advocate for our community, but I feel a responsibility to put my name in,” Holland said.  

According to the Office of Elections, a total of 18 people, including Holland, have issued their intent to run for the Kauaʻi County Council, including all 7 current council members. The deadline to officially file all formal paperwork is June 4, which Holland is in the process of completing. 

Holland’s campaign banners have been spotted around the island over the last couple of weeks, including this one seen at her first fundraising event at Anahola Marketplace on May 16, 2024. (Emma Grunwald / Kauaʻi Now)

Emma Grunwald
Emma Grunwald is a reporter for Kauaʻi Now. You can reach her at
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