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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Building a sturdy foundation for the benefit of the lāhui

Prepared remarks of Kamanaʻopono M. Crabbe, Ph.D., OHA Ka Pouhana/Chief Executive Officer for delivery at the 2016 Office of Hawaiian Affairs Investiture on Dec. 9, 2016 at Central Union Church, Honolulu. 

Me ke welina a ke aloha e nā kini, ka lehu, o ka mano e nā hoa makamaka o ko Hawaiʻi pae ʻāina mai ka pua koali e luliluli ana i ka makani Kūehulepo o Kalae ma Kaʻü a hiki loloa i ka pua hinahina e haʻa ana i ka lau makani o Nīhoa ʻo ka Inuwai a i kēlā mau moku i kaʻili la ma laila ma Papahānaumokuākea, aloha mai, aloha nō, aloha nō kākou e…

I would like to begin by congratulating the four trustees who start their new four-year terms today. Trustee Robert Lindsey, Trustee Colette Machado and Trustee Dan Ahuna, we look forward to your continued direction and guidance. Our newest board member, Trustee Keliʻi Akina, we welcome you and your staff to our OHA ʻohana.

I would also like to a take a brief moment to extend a warm mahalo to Trustee Haunani Apoliona for her 20 years of committed and passionate service on our board.

“Inā ua paʻa ke kahua … akā e paʻa nō ka hale.” The ʻōlelo noʻeau that is the theme of our gathering today illustrates how our kūpuna dealt with the unpredictable nature of tomorrow and beyond. They understood that the only way to ensure that a home would withstand the heaviest rain and the strongest wind is to construct a solid foundation, with superior intelligence, quality materials and tools, during the ideal time of the year and at the most secure location.

No laila, like our forefathers before us, we are focusing on our kahua, our foundation. There are two main aspects to OHA’s foundation. The first is our legal mandate to improve the lives of Native Hawaiians. We accomplish this primarily through our roles of funder and advocate, and we are guided in these efforts by our strategic plan. The second part of our foundation is our fiduciary responsibility to manage and protect our trust for current and future generations of beneficiaries. We accomplish this by implementing sound fiscal policies and performing our duties with the highest standard of care, obedience and undivided loyalty to our trust and our beneficiaries.

Over the last year, we have taken critical steps to reinforce both aspects of our foundation.

First, with respect to our mandate, two historic mālama ‘āina initiatives highlight our progress in improving the lives of Native Hawaiians.

In August, OHA was finally offered the ability to serve as a co-trustee of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, whose recent expansion made it one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. This action returns the Native Hawaiian voice to the highest levels of management for this ‘āina akua.

OHA’s funding of this year’s IUCN World Conservation Congress helped place indigenous people – and Native Hawaiians specifically – on the center stage in the international conservation movement. This event demonstrated to the world that traditional management practices are actually the best management practices to sustain our fragile global environment.

These two initiatives raise the profile of traditional management approaches and will promote future efforts to elevate the role of Native Hawaiians in the management of our ancestral lands throughout the Paeʻāina.

OHA also played a crucial role in the return of Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s sacred ahuʻula and mahiole to Hawaiʻi from New Zealand early this year. The historic long-term loan to Bishop Museum marks the first time both items have been home together in 237 years. Our 87 social media posts telling the story of Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s ahuʻula and mahiole reached more than 2.2 million unique users, furthering our strategic plan priority of increasing the number of Hawaiʻi residents who appreciate Native Hawaiian history and culture.

The journey of Native Hawaiian self-determination – which has spanned hundreds of generations – took another small but significant step forward in February when a group of Native Hawaiians drafted, debated and ultimately approved a constitution. Our journey thus far has taught us that the decision on where to go from here – whether that be ratifying this constitution or pursuing another option – can only be made by the Native Hawaiian people. OHA’s role now is to help educate our people on all the paths available to us and to facilitate healthy, respectful and productive dialogue. We know that a journey is not considered to be successful if there is a perception that many who began did not finish. This is why our next step must focus on healing and finding common ground from which we can resume our journey again, together as one Lāhui.

One of the critical ways OHA meets our mandate to improve the lives of Native Hawaiians is through our advocacy. State law directs us to assess the policies and practices of state agencies and establishes a responsibility among those agencies to cooperate with and assist OHA. As a result, OHA advocates at all levels of government – federal, state and county – to ensure the adoption of sound public policies that advance the interests of Native Hawaiians in a range of areas, from housing to the environment to educational opportunities for our keiki. For example, we’ve recently been working closely with a number of communities, such as Hāʻena on Kauaʻi, Kaʻūpūlehu on Hawaiʻi Island, and Moʻomomi on Molokaʻi, that are pursuing place-based and traditionally-grounded regulations to help mālama ‘āina and restore the abundance to their nearshore waters. And we have helped the City Council hold developers accountable to their affordable housing policies. In one instance this fall, our efforts resulted in a $2 million increase in affordable housing contributions from a private luxury development in Waikīkī.

In terms of funding, OHA provided more than $12 million to support programs and activities that benefit Native Hawaiians:

 $2.8 million went to educational projects, such as higher education scholarships, Hawaiian-focused charter schools and after school programs, which benefited nearly 5,000 students

 $1.8 million supported 11 ʻāina-based initiatives, resulting in 650 acres of ʻāina and loko iʻa being managed and the production of 30,326 pounds of crops for sale or community distribution

 Almost $3.5 million was distributed to housing programs, including entities that provide financial counseling and other services to low-income Native Hawaiians with unstable housing situations. Also included in this funding is OHA’s annual contribution towards our 30-year, $90-million commitment to Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which thus far has helped to pay for the infrastructure of 47 residential projects.

Further, OHA’s Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund program is helping to support Native Hawaiian entrepreneurs. This year, the program successfully completed a Strategic Business Plan that seeks to distribute $18 million dollars in loan funds over the next 3 years.

While we made substantial progress this year reinforcing our first foundation relating to bettering the lives of Native Hawaiians, we are perhaps most proud of our accomplishments relating to our second foundation: our fiduciary responsibilities.

Our most significant fiduciary initiative in recent memory is the launch of our fiscal sustainability planning. This project will take a holistic look at current and future organizational efforts from a financial perspective and will establish a long-range vision for OHA’s fiscal health and future. In October, our board adopted its Fiscal Sustainability Planning Model and committed to having an implementation plan in place on July 1, 2017. The plan will provide a structure that includes objectives aimed at increasing the value of OHA’s assets as well as our capacity to deliver on our mandate. Ultimately, this plan will ensure that our trust can meet the needs of multiple generations of beneficiaries. The planning comes at a critical juncture in OHA’s history, as we have recently expanded our trust portfolio to include significant legacy and commercial properties thereby creating new opportunities to generate revenues.

For example, our projected revenues for Nā Lama Kukui and Kakaʻako Makai, our two commercial properties, are steadily increasing, and our occupancy rate for Nā Lama Kukui is expected to be 98 percent in 2017. This revenue growth will help to ensure that our land asset portfolio is financially self-sustaining. Continuing to grow these revenues and creating new revenue streams through our fiscal sustainability planning will help support our Kakaʻako Makai master planning efforts to create a uniquely and authentically Hawaiian place in Honolulu’s urban core; help us protect our legacy lands at Wao Kele o Puna, whose natural resources are critical to traditional healing practices; help us establish an innovative agricultural center at our Galbraith Lands; and help us demonstrate exemplary stewardship of our most sacred cultural sites, such as Kūkaniloko.

As you can see, over the last year, we have continued to build and reinforce a sturdy foundation for the benefit of present and future generations of our lāhui. “Inā ua paʻa ke kahua … akā e paʻa nō ka hale.” With the setting of each stone, we empower our people, communities and Lāhui, and strengthen the social fabric that connects everyone in Hawaiʻi. While there is much work to be done to lift up the Hawaiian people, we remain steadfast in our commitment to this kuleana.


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