A recent investigation into Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s multimillion-dollar Hawaii compound has stirred both fascination and concern among the public.
A WIRED report revealed Zuckerberg’s plans to construct a private 1,400-acre compound called “Koolau Ranch” on Kauai. Allegedly, the $270 million property will include two mansions, a gym, a tennis court, pools, spa facilities, guest houses, operations buildings, and even an underground bunker.
Despite Koolau Ranch’s grandeur, the secrecy of the project raises many concerns among the tight-knit Kauai community. WIRED’s interviews with former contractors for the compound revealed that workers were required to sign strict NDAs and were observed under military-like security measures. Employees were allegedly fired for sharing social media posts on the property.
“There’s cameras everywhere,” a former Koolau Ranch contractor told WIRED.
In addition to the enforcement of strict worker NDAs, there were purportedly several more suspicious legal activities related to the project that sparked a public backlash.
Allegedly, Zuckerberg created a number of “shell” businesses to own Koolau Ranch on his behalf. According to WIRED, these shell businesses filed lawsuits that pressured locals with ancestral land rights to either sell their stakes in the land or bid for them at auction.
Sadly, many islanders have been unable to outbid wealthy competitors for ownership of their ancestral land, contributing to ongoing economic issues for Hawaiian locals. As more wealthy mainland Americans purchase property in Hawaii, island locals struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living, with some left with no choice but to leave their homes.
“The people who are born and raised here can’t afford to live here,” a Kauai local told WIRED.
Kauaians are also wary of the potential environmental impact that the Koolau Ranch project will have on the island. According to NBC News, the construction project has significantly increased local car traffic, noise pollution, and littering.
In the face of Koolau Ranch’s public backlash, some Hawaiians believe that Zuckerberg’s presence on Kauai could benefit the island’s economy in the long run. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have reportedly donated over $20 million to various Kauai-based nonprofits since 2018, per SFGATE, including a county jobs program and several COVID-19 relief initiatives.
However, critics remain skeptical of the Meta CEO’s intentions.
“Zuckerberg’s presence may increase charity, but will not address the root causes of why we need this type of philanthropic charity in the first place,” said Nikki Cristobal, executive director of Kamāwaelualani, a Hawaiian nonprofit dedicated to education and arts, in the WIRED report.
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