Civil Beat Staff

Thomas Heaton

Thomas is a reporter for Civil Beat. He joined the news outlet in 2021 as a Li Center for Global Journalism Fellow at Honolulu Civil Beat, position supported by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Institute for Nonprofit News. The Li Center was established to prepare journalists to work, think and report globally.

At Civil Beat, Thomas focuses on issues in and around the Pacific.

Having recently completed a Master of Arts at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Thomas has previously worked in regional and national news organizations in New Zealand and Nepal. 

A Kiwi by birth, Thomas made his start with a regional daily newspaper in New Zealand, where he covered social issues, health, local politics and general news. He was a finalist for Regional Reporter of the Year at the national media awards for his coverage of regional flooding, and regional health care issues, in his first year of reporting.

Later working for Cuisine magazine and Stuff.co.nz as a food reporter, Thomas wrote about everything from fisheries and agriculture to Filipino pinoy and the country’s national pie awards. 

He eventually followed his stomach to the base of the Himalayas, where he worked for The Nepali Times and The Kathmandu Post. At the Post he was deputy culture and arts editor, and wrote long-form pieces about the food industry, culture, tourism, travel, and restaurant reviews. He spent a few weeks trekking too.

Thomas has a propensity for slow travel and secondary fun, and he is always planning the next meal. Despite his army brat upbringing and nomadic life, the Pacific has always been home. He is glad to be back.

Feel free to contact him with tips and ideas at theaton@civilbeat.org, or find him on Twitter and Instagram

Oahu’s Construction Waste Could Become Food For Crops At A New Kapolei Facility Thomas Heaton/Civil Beat/2024

Oahu’s Construction Waste Could Become Food For Crops At A New Kapolei Facility

An innovative recycling plant also hopes to provide a process to turn invasive weeds and grasses into something more useful.

Taxpayers Are On The Hook For $1.25 Million After The State Failed To Provide Water To An Oahu Farmer Courtesy: Peter Savio Realty

Taxpayers Are On The Hook For $1.25 Million After The State Failed To Provide Water To An Oahu Farmer

The Legislature is poised to pay the settlement along with dozens of others totaling more than $13 million.

Lawmakers Are Working On Ways To Whack Hawaii’s Fire-Fueling Weeds Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023

Lawmakers Are Working On Ways To Whack Hawaii’s Fire-Fueling Weeds

Vegetation-focused legislation is aimed at reducing the chances of another disaster like the Aug. 8 wildfires on Maui.

The Hawaii Department Of Education Is Nowhere Close To Meeting Its Mandate To Buy More Local Food Courtesy: Lt. Governor's Office/2017

The Hawaii Department Of Education Is Nowhere Close To Meeting Its Mandate To Buy More Local Food

The DOE has also failed to deliver a required annual update to state lawmakers on progress so far.

The Game Management Advisory Commission Was Created To Be The Voice Of Hawaii’s Hunters. Is Anyone Listening? Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2022

The Game Management Advisory Commission Was Created To Be The Voice Of Hawaii’s Hunters. Is Anyone Listening?

The state is developing new rules to address mounting problems with goats, pigs and deer but the group representing a crucial stakeholder has been floundering.

Ancient Polynesian Crop Now Deemed Safe To Consume By Hawaii Health Department Thomas Heaton/Civil Beat/2023

Ancient Polynesian Crop Now Deemed Safe To Consume By Hawaii Health Department

The traditional elixir is known as awa in Hawaii and was brought to the islands by the early Polynesian settlers.

Hawaii Ranchers Want More Land Transferred To The State Agriculture Department Courtesy: Lilia Kapuniai

Hawaii Ranchers Want More Land Transferred To The State Agriculture Department

Gov. Josh Green's administration has moved quickly to shift thousands of acres out of DLNR's control to boost ag production but more remains on the table.

Feds Estimate Aug. 8 Wildfires Caused $23 Million In Damage To Agriculture David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023

Feds Estimate Aug. 8 Wildfires Caused $23 Million In Damage To Agriculture

The fires on Maui and Big Island destroyed thousands of acres of pasture, hundreds of crops and led to loss of livestock.