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OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

OHA bill calls out state’s $63.8 million annual under payment in PLT revenues owed to Hawaiians

HONOLULU (January 28, 2022) – The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) has introduced in its 2022 Legislative package a bill to receive its legally mandated 20 percent of the estimated $394 million annual revenue from the Public Land Trust. 

The legislation (House Bill 1474/Senate Bill 2122) would require the state to annually direct $78.9 million – representing 20 percent of annual revenue generated by these lands – to the agency starting in fiscal year 2022-2023 and maintain an annual accounting of all receipts derived from the trust. 

The bill also computes a one-time payment of $638 million to resolve underpayments from the years 2012-2022. OHA currently receives just $15.1 million annually in Public Land Trust payments from the state, representing just 3.8 percent of the revenues. 

“Our duty as trustees under the Hawai‘i State Constitution is to ‘better the conditions of Native Hawaiians.’ The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is united, has reorganized and streamlined its operations so that more funds will flow to our Native Hawaiian community. We are ready to receive the long overdue trust funds due Native Hawaiians from the ceded lands the State of Hawai‘i manages as a trustee,”  said OHA Board Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey. 

The Public Land Trust comprises some 1.4 million acres of land conveyed to the State of Hawai‘i from the federal government in 1959 when Hawai‘i transitioned from being a United States territory to a state. These lands were formerly known as “ceded lands” and are what remain of the “crown” and “government” lands of the Hawaiian Kingdom that were seized in the aftermath of the illegal overthrow in 1893. 

OHA was established as an outcome of the 1978 Hawai‘i State Constitutional Convention specifically to “manage all income and proceeds from that pro rata portion of the Public Land Trust for Native Hawaiians.” 

In 1980, Act 273 of the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes established OHA’s pro rata share of Public Land Trust revenues at 20 percent. The “betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians” is one of the five expressed purposes of Public Land Trust revenues as stated in the 1959 Admission Act.  

The State of Hawai‘i utilizes these lands for public schools and universities, harbors, parks, and for other public purposes. It also leases a portion of these lands to the federal government for military purposes.  

In 2006, in the absence of an accurate accounting of Public Land Trust revenues, the legislature enacted Act 178 which set the “interim revenue” amount to be conveyed to OHA at $15.1 million per year.  

“The State of Hawai‘i has a constitutional obligation and duty to the Indigenous people of Hawai‘i to convey a pro rata share of income and proceeds from Public Land Trust revenue to the constitutionally created OHA. Historically, the state has grossly underfunded OHA with Public Land Trust revenues, thus limiting funds available to support our kuleana to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians,” said OHA CEO/Ka Pouhana Dr. Sylvia Hussey.  

“OHA currently deploys its Public Land Trust payments through our grants program, which awarded over $16 million to community organizations last year in support of the Native Hawaiian community. We look forward to working with the Hawaiʻi State Legislature this session as we continue to seek justice and pono for our people.” 

In 2012 the state conveyed 30 acres of land at Kaka‘ako Makai to OHA in lieu of cash as a back payment for unpaid Public Land Trust revenues from 1980 to 2012. OHA is now seeking back payments of $638 million for the years 2012 to 2022.  

“We want to lift our people out of poverty, out of poor circumstances, so that they become business owners, homeowners, job holders, and students with high level degrees,” said OHA Chief Advocate Naʻunanikinaʻu Kamaliʻi. 

“To our Kanaka Maoli: these are your funds. This is not an OHA bill – this is a bill for the Native Hawaiian people. We encourage all Native Hawaiians to testify and tell the State of Hawai‘i that its failure to uphold its constitutional and statutory obligation to all Native Hawaiians is not pono. It’s not just about money, it’s about doing what is pono.”  

OHA has created a short video on “Understanding the Public Land Trust” to support its advocacy effort. The video is available for viewing at https://vimeo.com/665503521.  

To be notified of when Public Land Trust bill legislative hearings are scheduled, and to make your voice heard by submitting supportive testimony, please visit www.oha.org/legislation. The site also contains frequently asked questions and historical timeline of the Public Land Trust.

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