Hawaiians deserve the right to determine the use of their land


My maternal grandparents were pure Hawaiians, and they and my mother were both manaleo, native speakers of Olelo Hawai’i. My paternal grandparents were pure Japanese immigrants from Hiroshima.

Growing up in our Niuli’i sugarcane plantation community in Kohala, we were taught to honor our family, mālama la ‘āina, including the wai, to contribute to our community, to work hard and to be honest in our words and actions.

These invaluable lessons have been shaped and exemplified by resilient grandparents, parents, families and the community at large, not only in times of economic downturn or natural disasters, but also in calm daily conversations and actions. of honest hard work and willful daily acts.

In 2012, the state and the OHA agreed to settle the 32-year-overdue Public Land Trust’s $ 200 million tax debt by ceding 30 acres of land on 10 plots at Kaka’ako Makai to the OHA. Mai poina – remember – the terms and the value of the settlement.

The state’s own appraiser valued the land at around $ 198 million, assuming a height limit of 400 feet for bookends E and I, located along Ala Moana Boulevard (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. – Map of Kakaako Makai

The reality is that the state transferred Plots E and I to the OHA with only a height limit of 200 feet – half of the state appraiser’s assumption – and banned residential uses in the whole region. This clearly represents unfair conditions that devalued and deactivated the true value of the 2012 “settlement”.

While there have been promises made by the executive, proposed legislative solutions, and even legal considerations, after nearly a decade of hindsight, it is hard not to feel aggrieved and that the OHA is now the beneficiary of a “less than a settlement”.

Fiduciary duty

The Kakaʻako Makai Plots are Indigenous Hawaiian trust lands, not public lands. Acceptance of the 30-acre settlement reclassified these lands from “public lands” to Native Hawaiian trust lands. Other than the value of the settlement transaction, the OHA Trustees made the best possible decision given the facts and circumstances in 2012.

In the spirit of Indigenous self-determination, Indigenous Hawaiians deserve the right to decide and be accountable for decisions made regarding Indigenous Hawaiian Trust Lands. The OHA has a fiduciary duty to determine decisions made regarding all of its managed trust lands, including Kakaʻako Makai.

The following elements inform the master plan of “A Vision – E Ku’u Kaka’ako:”

  • Our goal is to create a sense of Hawaiian belonging where our culture is lived, practiced and celebrated, as part of an integrated vision that appeals to all of our senses, especially our na’au;
  • we want to create a welcoming urban oasis where families and communities can thrive;
  • meeting the needs of Native Hawaiians;
  • apply and integrate ancestral values, wisdom and practices while also using new and emerging data that inform urban responses; and
  • perpetuate effective resource management practices.

This 2021 session, the OHA supports legislation (Senate Bill 1334) which would give us the opportunity to develop residential housing on our Kakaʻako Makai plots.

The bill would lift the residential ban on five lots (E, A, F / G, I and L) and raise the height limit to 400 feet. for two of these five lots (E and I) on boulevard Ala Moana.

As we move forward with the planning and development of our Kakaʻako lands, all we ask is the establishment of fair and equitable height and residential use considerations as contained in SB1334.

Accordingly, OHA is exploring all options to maximize revenue at Kaka’ako Makai to better serve our beneficiaries, including residential and commercial use considerations.

The ability to develop residences in Kaka’ako Makai will not only provide the OHA with increased income opportunities, but will also allow the agency to better meet a range of housing needs. We assess multi-use multi-project scenarios that include, but are not limited to, affordable housing, for labor, kupuna and market price.

While my grandparents and parents passed away and my education, work and family kept me a resident of O’ahu for over 40 years, the teachings to honor family, mālama la ‘āina, contribute to the community, working hard and being honest in our word and deed, endures regardless of people, place or politics.

To the State, through its 2021 legislature and legislators, be honest in word and deed, and restore the height and conditions of residential use of Kakaʻako Makai to truly quantify the $ 200 million settlement to Indigenous Hawaiians .

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